China's digital economy, or D-economy, has entered a "golden era" and has become a new economic growth engine, said an expert from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank.
The internet, and technologies like cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, or AI, are helping transform several industries and sectors, thereby driving economic growth, he said.
"The country's digital economy has stepped into a new phase, with the focus shifting from high-speed growth to both quantity and quality development," said Lu Chuncong, director of the Policy and Economic Research Institute, at CAICT.
The nation's digital economy generated 27.2 trillion yuan (4.3 trillion U.S. dollars) in scale last year, up 20 percent year-on-year and higher than that of China's overall economic growth of 6.9 percent in 2017, CAICT data showed.
"Digital economy's contribution to GDP (which was 82 trillion yuan or 12.8 trillion U.S. dollars) exceeded 33 percent last year," said Lu.
The contribution of digital economy to gross domestic product is expected to approach or even surpass the corresponding figure in developed countries.
According to him, China's technology innovation has helped transform industry from a follower to a world leader, with the information technology and telecommunications sectors contributing the most.
The country's ongoing shift to the 5G technology, for example, marks important progress of D-economy.
China lagged behind some other countries in issuing 4G and 3G licenses. But in 5G, the nation has played a crucial role in partnering with other countries to finalize global standards.
"5G is just a few steps away from commercial use, with companies competing and cooperating with each other to establish a beachhead in the technology," said Xiang Ligang, CEO of a telecoms industry website.
5G devices will be ready for commercial applications in China in 2019. We'll be among the first batch of countries to issue 5G licenses in the world, most likely between the second half of 2019 and the first half of 2020.
In addition, the burgeoning digital economy has played an important role in creating jobs. Last year, 171 million people worked in China's digital economy-related sectors, accounting for 22 percent of the total employment.
"However, China still lagged behind in some core technologies compared with developed countries, which requires us to accelerate core technology breakthroughs," said Lu.
He said the country should bolster basic technologies while also mapping out the next generation of technologies in advance. It should also expand channels linking basic research and technology innovation.
"The country is expected to increase investment and encourage more industry-oriented investments in key and weak areas," said Lu.