China taps India as digital economy partner

In tune with its rise as an internet giant, China is roping in India as a niche digital partner, as part of Beijing’s drive to cyber-connect with Eurasia — its new frontier for trade and investments.

At a conference on defining common international standards for two-dimensional (2D) barcodes — the gateways for linking genuine buyers and sellers, as well making digital payments by scanning QR codes — Chinese officials say that India is already on board in this global exercise.

Last November, Zheng Chao, Executive Director of the Global Unified Two-Dimensional Code Registration Management Center (UTC), based in Beijing, signed a “strategic cooperation” agreement on 2D coding with his Indian counterpart. As a result UTC (India) was formed.

“In China, there has been a growing awareness of India’s strengths in the pharmaceutical sector and other areas. But the challenge is how to find genuine buyers and sellers. That is where 2D codes become important to solve the problem by eliminating fraudulent buyers and sellers online,” says Tian Furong, Director of the India Universal Two-dimensional code registration center. She points out that so far, only exports of Indian pharmaceuticals and cotton are being funneled through the 2D coding route, though other items are likely to be added in the future.

Analysts say that China appears more inclined to source pharmaceuticals and agro-products from India, following an unabated trade war with the United States.

Ms. Tian pointed out that UTC (India) will authenticate exporters following detailed background checks, followed by accreditation and certification. Chinese importers can scan that information, which will be stored in the 2D barcode, and swiftly decide online.

India’s favourable demography is also helping in building a growing digital-connect with China. “India has a young population, with a median age of 28. Young people are finding it easier to adapt to the digital way of doing business than in some other countries,” Ms. Tian observed.

Mr. Zheng, of UTC Global, envisions that 2D coding will push larger volumes of India-China trade on digital platforms. “India has a good foundation for digital economics. With the use of 2D coding, trade volumes can expand greatly, as the new technology will go a long way in building commercial trust,” Mr. Zheng told The Hindu.

Asked why Changchun, the capital of Jilin province, which borders North Korea, was emerging as a major digital technology base, Mr. Zheng said, that authorities in Beijing were now focusing sharply on “revitalising” industry in northeast China. China’s northeast, which borders Russia and North Korea, was once a pioneer of heavy industry.

But with demand for its outdated products collapsing in recent years, the once heavily industrialised region has become the core of China’s rust belt.

“Jilin province is also part of plans to successfully implement the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” Mr. Zheng observed, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pet project to revive the Ancient Silk Road. The BRI envisions physical and digital connectivity in Eurasia and Africa — the basis for smart cities and industrial parks, through heavy investments in infrastructure.

Chinese officials spotlight that Beijing has already become a heavyweight in cyberspace, leading to its natural emergence as one of the focal points of the global digital economy.

“Nearly 1.12 billion people in China use mobile phones and this are fundamental for telecom industry and foundations for 2D code,” said Miao Jianhua, President of China Association of Communication Enterprises.

He adds: “Also the number of 3G and 4G users has reached 79.4%... Even households in villages have access to QR codes.”

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 2:01:34 PM |

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