… the “Eastern Data, Western Computing” project will surely have a profound impact on cooperation in the “One Belt, One Road” digital economy … Just as goods need a place to be transshipped, stored, and processed, large amounts of data also need a place to be stored and processed. The “Eastern Data, Western Computing” project can meet this need … By transforming the ability to process data into a new competitive advantage for development … the western region becomes the “server” for the “Digital Silk Road” and continuously promotes construction of the “Digital Silk Road” in a deeper and more realistic way.

…我国推进“东数西算”工程,必将对“一带一路”数字经济合作形成深远影响 … 正像货物需要转运仓储、加工的地点一样,大量的数据也需要存储、处理的地点。”东数西算” 工程可以满足这些需求 … 把数据处理能力转化为新的竞争发展优势,将西部地区打造为“数字丝绸之路”的“服务器”,不断推动“数字丝绸之路”建设走深走实。

China Trade News, “A “One Belt, One Road” Perspective on “Eastern Data, Western Computing,” April 12, 2022

An interesting article in China Trade News today on the anticipated impact of the “Eastern Data, Western Computing” project on the Digital Silk Road. Let’s just say the writer sees the impact as wide and positive (for China). 

Eastern Data, Western Computing” is phase one of China’s effort to build a Nationally Integrated System (体系) of Big Data Centers. China Trade News is directly subordinate to the Ministry of Commerce’s China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

A gist of the China Trade News article follows:

The writer opens by noting that the digital economy has become a key force driving China’s economic growth.  And this is growth is driven in part by the growth in cross-border e-commerce between China and countries along the Belt and Road.  He adds that Chinese enterprises in the digital economy are “continuously expanding their presence” in those countries. 

In this context, “China’s promotion of the ‘Eastern Data, Western Computing’ project will surely have a profound impact on digital economic cooperation along the Belt and Road.” But to achieve this, the first task will be to both improve regional coordination on economic development and promote the circulation of data elements with the goal of creating a market for data.  This goal requires that China establish a number of basic systems and standards including a [system] for robust data security and rights protection, and a [system] to manage cross-border data transmission.

The second task is to provide infrastructure to construct the Digital Silk Road.  After years of construction the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a “globally-welcomed public good.”  We see a great deal of infrastructure but what we don’t see is the circulation of the kind of funds, technologies, services, and continuously-updated data that would support a digital economy.  Under the “Eastern Data, Western Computing” project, China’s western region has the capability to convert this data into something that can be mined and processed. Turning China’s western region into the computer server for the Digital Silk Road will play to China’s new competitive advantage in this area, and in effect, create a New Development Pattern.

The third task is to establish a developmental model for countries and regions along the Belt and Road. “Economic development in most of these countries and regions is relatively backward, but the booming digital economy gives new hope.” This requires not just infrastructure but also other elements such as talent, capital, and technology [all which China can provide].  All that Chinese enterprises need to do is take the initiative and understand the digital infrastructure needs of countries and regions along the Belt and Road. While these enterprises assist these countries and regions to improve their ability to process data, they will also be driving the international development of China’s enterprises in general. 

Note: Eastern Data, Western Computing” is a Special Project under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) designated New Type Infrastructure (NTI) sub-category titled “National Integrated System of Big Data Centers.”