An important note for Digital China watchers: informatization (the application of information technology) and digitalization (adding value to data) mean two different things. The terms are quite specific as used by the Chinese Communist Party (and that includes the party’s army).

Party commentary describes Xi Jinping’s first theoretical insights on informatization (信息化)dating back nearly 25 years to his time in Fujian as governor and deputy party secretary of that province. As told in party history, Xi’s insight began with understanding that improving government performance through the application of information technology (informatization) could both improve the “people’s happiness” and strengthen the leadership (and image) of the party itself. Over the next twenty years, his insight would continue to evolve to where it stands now: the transformative potential of data intelligence, the predictive potential of historical materialism, and the bundling of these two theoretical insights into Digital China’s potential to “win the future.”

As always, for the full story, see David Dorman and John Hemmings, “Digital China: The Strategy and Its Geopolitical Implications,” Issues and Insights, February 21, 2023.