Feature: When Chinese tech Big Four meet Internet Plus

2015-03-10 11:06:10
BEIJING, March 9 (Xinhua) -- What will we get, when we add up China's latest attempt to boost the Internet sector, and the country's four IT big names? You do the math.

The notion of "Internet Plus" highlighted by Premier Li Keqiang in his government work report last week has drawn wide attention, especially from those running the nation's most innovative firms such as Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Xiaomi.

The report outlined development of an "Internet Plus" action plan to integrate mobile Internet, cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things with modern manufacturing, to encourage the healthy development of e-commerce, industrial networks, and Internet banking to help Internet companies increase their international presence.

"Mobile Internet is like electricity. When we first had electricity in the past, earthshaking changes took place in many industries," said Pony Ma, CEO of Internet giant Tencent.

Ma, a national lawmaker attending China's ongoing parliamentary session, brought four proposals on the idea of "Internet Plus" this year. He proposed mobile Internet be used to address social issues such as medical treatment, allocation of education resources and smog.

In the future, the government and the market will each perform their own duties, and the government will provide better services while encouraging innovation, Pony Ma expected.

To integrate the Internet sector with traditional industries, many things regarding technology, industry standards and policy need to be smoothed out, and more Internet infrastructure should be built, he said.

China boasts the world's most Internet and cell phone users. The country had 649 million Internet users by the end of 2014, and some 557 million used cell phones to get online, official data showed.

Many insiders took the mention of "Internet Plus" in the report as a sign of the government's increasing emphasis on the booming sector.

Lei Jun, CEO of smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc. and a national lawmaker, is confident about his firm's future under the plan. "Xiaomi has the chance to be the world's No. 1 in the next ten years," he said.

Xiaomi secured the most market share on the Chinese smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014, beating Apple and Samsung, according to independent surveys. The company is marketing products in six foreign countries and regions.

"I think the cross-over of Internet and other industries will be of enormous value to the development of Chinese economy," Lei said.

Attending the annual session of China's top political advisory body, Robin Li, chairman of search engine giant Baidu, brought perhaps the "boldest" proposal of all, a glimpse into the future of the Internet.

His "China Brain" project aims to help companies build information sharing platforms on areas including human-machine interaction, big data analysis, autopilot, smart-health care, unmanned aircraft, as well as military and civil robotics. This has been largely considered a response to the "Internet Plus" idea.

The political advisor said he believes the environment for innovation in China will be greatly improved.

"In a few years, people will see that the Internet not only 'overturns' traditional sectors, but helps them to be more efficient and stimulates them to grow," Li said.

China has entered a crucial period for deepening reform and restructuring after the economy registered its lowest pace of growth in 24 years, expanding 7.4 percent in 2014.

According to Premier Li's report, which directs work priorities in the year ahead, the government pledged to revive conventional growth drivers while seeking new momentum by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.

Jack Ma, an entrepreneur starting from scratch and now head of the U.S.-listed Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, offered a piece of advice.

Commenting on the country's newly-announced "around 7 percent" growth target for 2015, Jack Ma said "it is like a man's height that can't grow higher forever. When growing up, we will try to pursue more thoughts and wisdom."