Essay: The idea of a “smarter planet”

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  • Subject area(s): Economics essays
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  • Published on: January 10, 2019
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Since the reform and opening-up policy was launched in 1978, China is undergoing a giant transformation. It has been progressively assertive in an international arena. Owing to Deng Xiaoping’s era, the socialist market economy orientation has been steadfastly promoted. Urbanization has been rapidly constructed and economic achievement has been intensely made. Until 2016, 57.4% of the total population lives in urban areas.1 After China has reached certain economic achievements, urban problem has alertly emerged. Urban problem includes but not limited to environmental pollution and shortage of natural resources.2 And this would definitely restrain the sustainable development of China.

The ideology of ‘Smarter planet’ has been mobilized by IBM in 2008, after the outbreak of financial crisis. A year later, IBM organized 22 smart city forums so as to build a network with local government officials.3 To response the external cogitation ‘Smart City’, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development officially issued ‘Notice of Carry Out the National Smart City Pilot’ plus ‘National Interim Measures for Smart City Pilot’ in 2012. Meanwhile, 90 pilot items for constructing Smart City has been given the go-ahead. Regarding to the National Development and Reform Commission 20144, Smart City has been treated as a key tool and policy to boost industrialization, informalization and urbanization. Until 2013, 193 admitted pilot projects has been promoted, which mostly were contributed by the partnerships between IT firms and the government. It is because the National Development and Reform Commission of China has given the definition of China’s Smart City – ‘new fundamental rule of boosting smart city planning, building up, management and service, cloud computing big data and spatial geographic information integration’. The Chinese government would place technology as their initial tool to construct Smart City.

In the following essay, SWOT analysis (i.e. strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats) on overall Smart City projects would be demonstrated in order to provide a nuanced analysis.


To begin with, Smart City demonstrates a comprehensive plan on technology development. And this provides a solid base for sustainable growth of China in the future. From application stage, Smart City serves the fundamental necessities of the citizens. For instance, smart agriculture amends the previous agriculture method and enhances the efficiency. With advancing the technology, famers and industry would easily measure the harvest on different agricultural products. And they would also manage the harvest in different provinces and regions. The more harvest, the more agricultural products would be exported. This creates economic benefit in a long term. Thence, the prolonged idea of ‘taking agriculture as China’s based’ would be further strengthened. In the recent 19th National Congress held in February 2018, the Secretary Xi Jinping has delivered the idea of modern agriculture.5 Smart agriculture would be fully applied so as to match the leader’s ideology. Apart from smart agriculture, different aspects of application layer (e.g. general security, smart governance, smart transportation and smart energy) would be achieved.

Since 2010, Shanghai municipal government has raised their concern on Smart City. In order to response to the National 12th Five-Year Plan, Shanghai municipal government has launched ‘The Smart City Plan 2011-2013’.6 Here, smart governance and smart healthcare have been attained. The Shanghai municipal government adopted ETC system so as to control the transportation and traffic intelligence. Also, they have constructed health file platform and hospital reservation system in order to enhance the smart healthcare in the province. The abovementioned examples illustrate Smart City in the application layer.

Secondly, through the advancement on platform and network stages, the data of China would not be easily intervened by the other countries. To further extend ‘The Smart City Plan 2011-2013’, Shanghai municipal government constructed the network layer by cooperation with the leading telecom companies (i.e. China Telecom and China Mobile).

Not only has the partner founded in Chinese companies, but also did the foreign ventures take part in the subsystem construction. For example, the State Grid Shanghai Municipal Electric Power Company and Schneider Electric have participated in the platform and network layers. With the launch of ‘Shanghai Promotion Action Plan for Cloud Computing Industry Development (2010-2012)’ and ‘Provisions of Shanghai Municipality on Promoting the Development of E-Commerce’ issued on gazette by the Shanghai Municipality People’s Congress and Standing Committee, Shanghai has built a cloud computing system with a comprehensive information security platform that protected by the rule of law. Ultimately, e-commerce would be benefited by that. The revenue of information service in the field has attained 1713 billion RMB in 2013 and constituted 6% of Shanghai’s GDP7.

From 2010, Ningbo municipal government has launched the ‘Decision of Ningbo Municipal Government on the Smart City Construction’ and ‘Action of Speeding Up the Creation of Smart City in Ningbo (2011-2015)’. After practicing ‘government fully mode’ for two years, ‘2013 Action Plan of Speeding Up the Creation of Smart City in Ningbo’ has promoted in order to form partnerships with the big three telecom operators (i.e. China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom) to build the network layer. The network layer involved in setting up physical network backbone, WIFI and optical fibre. While three leading telecom companies invested exceed 10 billion RMB8, the Ningbo municipal government has reached Smart City with an advantage of risk diverseness. The increasing involvement of private sectors would enhance the source of finance. With sufficient financial resources and technology professions, Smart City would be developed in a sustainable way.

Thirdly, there is effectiveness on Smart City plan promoted by the local government. As local governments own the knowledge on geographical stickiness9, a localized Smart City promotes city development. Smart City serves a function to meet the concerns and tactics.10 Owing to the early country project on separating the development of urban and rural areas, the implementation of Smart City would have to maintain a variety so as to foster competitive economy. The rural areas would not have to blindly achieve the plan promoted in the urban areas.11 The flexibility of promoting smart cities within different provinces would allow them to explore and adjust the effective governance doctrine.

For instance, the dominance of Smart City is held by Shanghai government. The related departments would cooperate with each other in a rapid response based on the order of municipal government. Smart public service platform (e.g. electric bill and collation of transportation information) has been constructed sequentially. The enhancement of governance and economic benefit would encourage the confidence of municipal government in order to run the smart city plan continuously.

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