30 Years of Internet in China: Between past growth and future challenges

April 19
12:00 pm
 – 1:00 pm

Message from Hu Qiheng, China’s Internet Pioneer and Global Connector

Compared with 30 years ago, the progress is so fast now, and for those who are hurrying to catch the pace with AI, there is perhaps not much time to review the past.

To my understanding, all happened because of the two great events. The internet, epoch-making creativity, sprang up from the West while in China, we had been in the Reform and Open-Door age. Because of those two great events, with the impact of the internet, China started to embrace the world market, and China’s booming economy became world-shacking.

At the same time, because of the joining of China, the world had also changed profoundly.

I wish the Symposium complete success.

6 April 2024
Beijing, China

 Photography, Face, Head, Person, Portrait, People, Happy, Smile

On 20 April 1994, China connected to the internet. It was one of the most important developments in the digital history of the 20th century. Digitalisation has strongly supported the rise of the Chinese economy, lifting millions out of poverty. Today, China has 1.050 billion internet users, or 20% of the global internet population. China displays a vibrant digital economy and is home to many leading digital companies.

In the 1990s, U.S. technology was largely employed to build the ‘Eight Vertical and Eight Horizontal’ fibre-optic backbone, a nationwide grid-shaped fibre-optic network representing the Chinese internet’s core. As globalisation boomed, China and the West became increasingly intertwined by growing flows of trade, finance, and by the decentralisation of production, which engendered today’s complex global value chains. The use of Chinese platforms has grown. China has also enacted a wide range of digital legislation on data security, personal information protection, and digital governance.

In less than two decades, however, telecommunications and mobile technology became the first well-established fields of geopolitical rivalry between the US and China. This dispute for leadership is spreading through a vast array of so-called ‘critical and emerging technologies’, including artificial intelligence. Tension is rising between the two digital powers, and measures have been put in place to restrict access to each other’s digital markets.

On the occasion of this 30th anniversary, Diplo will host a discussion focusing on past growth and future challenges of Chinese digitalisation. 

  • Jovan Kurbalija, Director of Diplo & Head of Geneva Internet Platform
  • Lee Xiaodong, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fuxi Institution & Professor, Tsinghua University
  • Liu Hao, Executive Chair, School of Global Governance, Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Rogier Creemers, Assistant Professor & Lecturer in Modern Chinese Studies, Leiden University
  • Sorina Teleanu, Director of Knowledge, Diplo

Moderator: Marília Maciel, Head of Digital Commerce and Internet Policy, Diplo