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How Guizhou's computing power will drive fresh growth

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-25 09:20

Employees from a home furnishing company monitor the operating data of intelligent equipment in each production area in Hefei, Anhui province, on Feb 20, 2023. ZHAO MING/FOR CHINA DAILY

When I visited Guiyang, Guizhou province, to cover the China International Big Data Industry Expo last year, I was astonished by the sight of numerous data centers in Gui'an New Area, about an hour's drive from downtown.

The mountainous Guizhou is famous for its vast karst landscapes. It is also China's first national big data comprehensive pilot zone. It has become a key computing hub for the country's megaproject of channeling more computing resources from eastern regions to its less developed yet resource-rich western regions.

I saw Chinese tech heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd's Gui'an Qixing data center that is shaped like mountain caves. The center covers about 470,000 square meters with over 30,000 sq m inside tunnel caves. Seen from a distance, the data center appears to be surrounded by green vegetation, no different from natural mountain caves.

Guizhou has pioneered China's big data industry thanks to its cool climate and sufficient power supply. Tech companies from home and abroad, such as China's three telecom giants — China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom — Apple, Huawei and Alibaba have all established their data centers in Gui'an New Area. These data centers store companies' crucial data resources and provide stable computing power support.

The demand for computing power, which is regarded as a key part of developing new quality productive forces, has been surging ever since the US-based OpenAI unveiled in February its sensational Sora, a new text-to-video generator.

Computing power, which refers to capacity of a computer or computer system to execute complex computations and data processing tasks, is key to activating the new quality productive forces in this era of the digital economy. It will also unleash China's new growth momentum, experts said.

"Along with rapid development and application of AI-powered large language models in a wide range of fields, the demand for computation and data processing has grown exponentially, which has driven the construction of data centers," said Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association.

"The establishment of data centers will improve efficiency in the use of computing resources and accelerate enterprises' digitalization push," Xiang said.

The scale of China's core computing power industry reached 1.8 trillion yuan ($250 billion) in 2022, said the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a think tank. Every yuan invested in computing power will drive economic growth of 3 to 4 yuan in GDP.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in August that the number of standard racks in use in China's data centers had exceeded 7.6 million units, and the country's computing power had reached 197 EFLOPS, ranking second in the world. EFLOPS is a unit of the speed of computer systems.

Zou Debao, deputy general manager of AI and big data research at market research firm CCID Consulting, said more efforts are needed to promote infrastructure construction, enhance independent innovation capabilities in areas like computing algorithms, and step up the research and development in graphics processing units and servers.


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