Chinese tech giants team up with State Grid on new digital infrastructure for energy sector

The investment follows the direction set by Premier Li Keqiang last month, when he announced details of the government’s 3.6 trillion yuan fiscal stimulus package.

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The Chinese government-backed State Grid Corporation plans to invest RMB 24.7 billion (USD 3.48 billion) this year in digital infrastructure to bolster Beijing’s efforts to kick start economic recovery in the wake of coronavirus lockdowns.

The world’s largest utility has signed strategic cooperation agreements with four Chinese tech giants including Huawei Technologies, Alibaba Group, Tencent Holdings, and Baidu, State Grid spokeswoman Wang Yanfang told state broadcaster CCTV on Monday.

It will also boost cooperation with local governments, enterprises and research institutes to build new digital infrastructure in the energy sector, including big data centers, the industrial internet, 5G networks, and artificial intelligence.

The investment follows the direction set by Premier Li Keqiang last month, when he announced details of the central government’s RMB 3.6 trillion (USD 510 billion) fiscal stimulus package at the National People’s Congress. As part of that programme, Beijing will also issue RMB 1 trillion (USD 140 billion) of special treasury bonds for the first time since 2007.

With the agreement, “Baidu is speeding up its step into new digital infrastructure in the energy sector,” the search giant said in a statement on Monday.

Tencent, Alibaba, and Huawei had no further comment on their cooperation with State Grid. However, their participation in the digital infrastructure plan comes as the coronavirus outbreak accelerates adoption of technologies such as telemedicine, online education, and unmanned deliveries.

In April, Alibaba said it would invest RMB 200 billion (USD 28 billion) over the next three years on its cloud infrastructure to help speed up the digital transformation of businesses in China following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month Tencent said it planned to invest RMB 500 billion (USD 70.6 billion) over the next five years in new digital infrastructure, focusing cloud computing, AI, blockchain technology, and Internet of Things, as well as the infrastructure to support them like advanced servers, supercomputers, data centres, and 5G mobile networks.

This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post.