Geographies in Depth

8 amazing facts to help you understand China today 

A worker puts finishing touches to an iPal social robot, designed by AvatarMind, at an assembly plant in Suzhou, Jiangsu province

Whether it's robotics, electric vehicles, AI or 5G, China is at the forefront. Image: REUTERS/Aly Song

Oliver Cann
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Geographies in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Space is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:


This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions, the World Economic Forum's annual summit on innovation, science and technology and entrepreneurship, will take place from 18-20 September 2018 in Tianjin, China. Ahead of the meeting, here are 8 surprising facts about the world's second largest economy.

China is well on its way to deploying the world’s first 5G network

Eight or so years after the mobile industry gave us 4G, or LTE networks, all the talk around the future of the internet is about 5G. And all the talk about 5G is about China’s leadership.

5G is eagerly anticipated as it will dramatically increase the bandwidth available to run high-speed, connected devices. This is all the more important considering the huge amount of additional devices that are expected to come online in the next few years. While no one has deployed 5G yet (previous generations of mobile internet have been led by Europe and the US), China is said to be most advanced in terms of building the necessary infrastructure. Industry experts broadly agree that if China is able to win the race to 5G, its internet firms could gain disproportionately as a result.

China leads the world in electric vehicles

China is the largest market for battery-powered cars in the world. It produced and bought nearly 600,000 of the 1.1 million vehicles manufactured last year. China’s surge is partly down to its large market and manufacturing base, but it’s mainly down to proactive policy which, in incentivising consumers, manufacturers and infrastructure builders, is judged to be the most comprehensive in the world.

China has launched the world’s largest carbon trading scheme

As the world’s largest emitter of CO2, a lot of hope is resting on the successful implementation of China’s carbon market. Launched in December 2017, the scheme, the centrepiece of the country’s bid to meet its Paris climate agreement obligations, is expected to be fully up and running by 2020. While initially only targeting the power generation sector, that would still make it twice as large as the EU’s own scheme and 10 times larger than California’s.

Two thirds of all investment in AI happens in China

The Chinese government is highly supportive of attempts to establish China as a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, but it’s not acting alone, as the private sector increasingly sees China as the best destination for investment. According to recent research from Tsinghua University, two thirds of global AI investment is currently going to China, which has helped the Chinese AI industry grow 67% in the past year. China also leads the US and Japan in the number of AI patents, research papers and citations; however it trails the US in talent by a factor of five.

China wants to be the first nation to explore the ‘dark side’ of the moon

China hadn’t even launched a satellite by the time the US put men on the moon for the first time. Fifty years later, it’s aiming to become the first nation to explore the far side of the moon, with a mission planned later this year. It’s all part of a wider strategic goal of catching up with other leading space powers by 2030. Part of this plan involves sending a probe to Mars in 2020 while a human lunar landing is also being studied.

China’s thriving coffee scene is at the forefront of innovation

Coffee is becoming big business in China and technology is partly behind the craze. Mobile payments through QR codes have been up and running for years now, however the latest development to enhance the customer experience is the robot barista. According to one Shanghai-based business, using robots to make the coffee allow for a more precision and therefore opportunity to personalize a brew, in addition to saving money in terms of labor and training costs (in many countries the coffee industry suffers from high staff turnover) and space.

Have you read?

China will be the biggest market for robots by 2022

It’s not only coffee shops where robots are making their presence felt. The country’s manufacturing sector is investing huge amounts to help address labor shortages and maintain its competitive edge in the industries of the future. China is the largest market in the world for industrial robots, with 141,000 purchased in 2017, nearly 60% more than the previous year. Three-quarters of these robots are imported, although Chinese manufacturers are becoming increasingly competitive.

China is betting big on blockchain

Despite being less than enthusiastic about crypto currencies like bitcoin, China is increasingly adopting the underlying technology, blockchain. In May, President Xi Jinping called it a ‘breakthrough technology’ and applications are being developed for its use in tracking high-value goods and storing medical records as well as recording financial transactions. In August, a 24 year-old Beijing entrepreneur made headlines when she launched China’s first blockchain-based social network.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Geographies in DepthEmerging Technologies
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How MENA’s biggest actors can help the region’s suppliers and SMEs to decarbonize

Akram Alami and Kelsey Goodman

May 27, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum