Apr 7, 2020|

Seize the Opportunities that the “New Infrastructure” Provides


by Lei Xu

Accelerating the development of the “new infrastructure” – including the deployment of 5G networks and data centers – has become a top priority for China’s central government.  Industry experts and academia have now shifted focus accordingly, and it is clearly the time to move in-step with this overall development focus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the “new infrastructure” has played a critical role in China’s overall economy. Retail platforms forged on the basis of a solid supply chain ensure that the supply of product accurately matches people’s needs. Dependable and fast delivery helps guarantee the stability of tens of millions of families. Offline retail stores are exploring online sales opportunities, which accelerates the recovery of production and order life cycle. Meanwhile, online medical counseling and online pharmacies provide convenient “Internet + medicine” services, addressing medical resource shortages. The general public can deeply sense that economic and social operations have not shut down because of times of increased isolation. An important factor for this is simply enabling support of the new infrastructure: technologies including 5G network, data centers, artificial intelligence, industrial Internet, Internet of things and so on.

Aligning with the core direction of this “new infrastructure” already over the past few years, JD.com has continuously upgraded core competencies including “smart supply chain and smart logistics”, which are based on robust technology, such as the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence. These also work together to ensure continued progress and stability of the economy and society during COVID-19. During Chinese New Year, this “new infrastructure” became very real in the hearts and minds of people from across China. Under quarantine, they experienced the efficiency of delivery of medical materials, logistics, distribution as well as the guaranteed supply of fresh food and the availability of products which would otherwise be unsalable due to our smart supply and smart logistics. And, now people are able to get back to work. This infrastructure ensures economic resilience and forms a hedge against the impact of the pandemic. Smart supply chain and smart logistics – like hydropower and coal in the past – will become just as indispensable to modernity tomorrow.

The quality of one’s supply chain is increasingly relevant around the world, and it’s a lynchpin for cooperation and development across a range of industries and enterprises. Whether it’s in the midst of crisis such as COVID-19 or during every-day life, the upgrading of China’s economy to be more focused on smart manufacturing and smart services is inextricably linked to supply chain and smart logistics. If we can significantly reduce the cost of social logistics through smart supply chain and smart logistics, overall economic and social development will be much more efficient and greatly improved. In the process of accelerating the development of new infrastructure, actively developing smart logistics and an intelligent supply chain will be critical.

The “new infrastructure” is also applicable to potential consumption, new models of production in a variety of industries and even rapid economic development. This is the smart and digital foundation of quality economic development which gives rise to new models, new business types and new services. It opens up a broad space for new manufacturing, new services and new consumption. Building a new type of infrastructure acts as a ‘seed project’ for China’s future economy. It will act as a driver of economic momentum which will both move enterprises higher as well as help them cope with challenges related to transformation and upgrading. At the same time, we need to recognize that there are no shortcuts to the new infrastructure. It can be achieved only through perseverance and endurance.

The impact of COVID-19 on China’s economy is temporary, and the fundamentals of stable and long-term improvement will remain unchanged. The opportunity that the new infrastructure affords can only be secured by adopting a flexible and open-minded approach. But, those who do so will enjoy the dividends for themselves and all of society.


(The author is CEO of JD Retail. The Chinese version of this article was published on People’s Daily, April 3, 2020)