Embracing New Tech, Innovation, China Poised to Thrive in Fourth Industrial Revolution

Published
20 Sep 2018
2018
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Muzi Li, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, Tel.: +86 139 1046 6369; muzi.li@weforum.org

· In the 12 years since the World’s Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions was first held in China, the country has doubled its GDP, lifting millions of people out of poverty

· At the heart of the challenge moving forward into the Fourth Industrial Revolution is reconciling the drive to harness new technology and ensure that robust GDP growth and prosperity continues

· Education, reskilling and government willingness to incentivize the private sector are key factors in adapting to this fast-transforming environment

· For more information about the meeting, please visit: http://wef.ch/amnc18

· Follow the conversation using #AMNC18

Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, 20 September 2018 – The World Economic Forum’s 12th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, held in the city of Tianjin, closed on a note of resounding optimism on Wednesday.

The three-day meeting broke several records this year, drawing some 2,500 participants from more than 111 countries to discuss the theme: Shaping Innovative Societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In China – a country that has experienced exponential economic growth, lifting millions of people out of poverty in the last decade – the meeting generated productive discussions on fuelling innovation and productivity, and reconciling the drive to harness new technology and ensure robust GDP growth.

“Over the past three days New Champions from all over the world have gathered here, sharing illuminating thoughts and wisdom in brainstorming sessions. We are making development plans in advancing forth these ideas,” noted Zhang Guoqing, Mayor of Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, “In the discussions here, friendships have been forged, ideas and inspiration shared. Even mountains and seas cannot distance people with common aspirations.”

Since the first Annual Meeting of the New Champions was held in China 12 years ago, the country has managed to double its GDP output. The World Economic Forum platform, added Mayor Guoqing, “triggers outbursts of wisdom and inspiration” to address our greatest challenges.

In the past year, China has created 13 million new jobs but as technological advances accelerate, business leaders and industry experts emphasized, there is an urgent need to invest in education and focus on reskilling labour to adapt to the transformational change the Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring.

“In China, we emphasize education and this is improving progressively; there is a rising number of undergraduates, master’s and PhD students,” noted Chen Lei, Chief Executive Officer of Xunlei, People's Republic of China, “But we also need to think about educating people in rural areas.”

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, echoed the sentiment: “The education system is one of the slowest moving parts of society; it takes decades to implement real change, from the first grade to universities,” he remarked, adding that computer science should be adopted as early as elementary school.

Addressing the tension at the heart of the challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Hua Fung Teh, Group Chief Financial Officer and Chairman, Greater China, ONE Championship, Singapore, stressed the role of governments, particularly when it comes to reskilling. Singapore’s successful transition from a manufacturing economy to one based on services was due to the government’s role in incentivizing the right types of industries and growth, he said.

“In the future, we are going to see entire workforces being wiped out by new technologies,” remarked Teh, “The government has a very important role to play here in retraining, not by themselves but in partnership with the private sector … China is uniquely positioned to lead the way on this because of the fact that it is a relatively centrally governed economy.”

While industry experts debated the “democratization of data” and concerns over privacy, some argued that fears about technology overtaking jobs might be misplaced.

“People misunderstand the tension between technology and traditional sectors. Related to this theme, I think the word ‘revolution’ is really more about ‘evolution’,” noted Zhang Lu, Founding and Managing Partner of Fusion Fund, USA. “New technology is there to increase the efficiency of the workforce, not to replace all human beings.”

Taking part in the closing ceremony, Lu Lin, Executive Vice-Mayor of Dalian, People's Republic of China, hailed the World Economic Forum’s meeting in China, commenting that it allows “China’s voice to be heard”. Dalian, where the meeting is held every second year, he said, is making full use of the Forum’s platform to spur reform and growth.

Børge Brende, President and Member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum, outlined the key outcomes achieved over the three-day meeting.

Tangible outcomes include:

- The World Economic Forum announced it would open a Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Beijing, becoming the third centre in its global network. The centre will collaborate on common issues and join projects with its other centres in San Francisco and Tokyo.

- The World Economic Forum announced that it will partner with the UK government to develop the first artificial intelligence procurement policy.

- The Forum formally launched a new community of Lighthouses – super-advanced factories of the future that have agreed to open their doors and help peers in industry master the complexities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

- The Forum launched a Chinese version of its strategic intelligence tool, the Transformation Maps, to encourage multistakeholder collaboration on some of the world’s key issues and challenges.

- The first set of “Green Investment Principles” was jointly drafted by the Forum, the Green Finance Committee of China Society for Finance and the Banking and the Green Finance Initiative of the City of London. Work has begun to mobilize business support to promote and implement these principles.

- A multistakeholder project to address the issue of global energy poverty has been launched. The project will be led by State Grid Corporation of China on the Forum’s platform.

- A new global multistakeholder effort will accelerate the impact of the internet of things (IoT) by making it easier for businesses and governments to procure and deploy solutions.

- A consensus was reached among government and private-sector leaders on a global agile governance framework to help cities prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

- A model was established for a body of global councils on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These councils will convene their first meeting at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January.

The World Economic Forum’s 12th Annual Meeting of the New Champions is taking place on 18-20 September in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. Convening under the theme, Shaping Innovative Societies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, more than 2,500 business leaders, policy-makers and experts from over 111 countries will participate and explore more than 200 sessions over the three days of the meeting.

Notes to editors

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.