The Chinese Communist Party’s specialized language to describe Digital China is public and the object of nearly continuous media education campaigns for party cadre and the general public. Do not interpret this language as simply slogans or memes, this is the language used by the party to set the strategic direction and ideological tone of national policy, both essential elements of the Chinese system of governance.
What follows are examples of this language as it relates to Digital China. Understanding this language is essential to understanding China’s digital grand strategy: its intent, goals, successes and challenges, and the theory and narratives driving it. This list will be regularly updated here.
Strategic Plans (战略部署): “Strategic plans” are systemic, integrated strategies formulated by the Chinese Communist Party to solve pressing issues facing the country. Strategic plans touching on informatization and digitalization include:
Cyber Great Power (网络强国): Top-level design, strategy, and end state to become a “world class” (世界一流) great power in the cyber domain. Seeks to build a uniform, nationally-integrated framework of cybersecurity and informatization systems (rules, institutions, and technology) with global reach and impact. Cyber Great Power can be achieved independent of Digital China and/or Smart Society.
Digital China (数字中国): Top level design, “overall strategy,” and end state for “informatized development.” Seeks digital transformation at the societal level (economy, government, society, culture, and environment) to enhance “core competitiveness,” create a “Smart Society,” and ensure regime stability in support of building a Modernized Socialist Great Power. Digital China’s success is dependent on the success of Cyber Great Power.
Smart Society (智慧社会): Top level design of “New Type Smart Cities” and end state for national “intelligentization.” Seeks modernized social governance, elimination of the digital divide, the widest development of science and technology talent, and improvements to the “people’s livelihood” through government efficiency and social equity. Smart Society’s success is dependent on the success of Digital China.
“Terms of Art” (提法 or tifa): Tifa are specialized language formulations used by the Communist Party to encapsulate political direction, ideas, and initiatives. Tifa touching on informatization and digitalization include:
Build Digital China (建设数字中国): “Build Digital China” is a Communist Party term of art (or tifa) tied to the exhortation to implement the Digital China strategy. It is often expressed simply as “Digital China.” In full form, the term of art is expressed as “Accelerate Digitalized Development and Build Digital China” (加快数字化发展 建设数字中国). This term of art has appeared in central documents including the 14th Five-Year Plan and it is referenced regularly in state-run media. The two components of this tifa, “Accelerate Digitalized Development” and “Build Digital China,” are also used individually.
Accelerate Digitalized Development (加快数字化发展): “Accelerate Digitalized Development” is a Communist Party term of art (or tifa) tied to the exhortation to to digitalize the construction of economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological civilization (Five-Sphere Integrated Plan). In full form, the term of art is expressed as “Accelerate Digitalized Development and Build Digital China” (加快数字化发展 建设数字中国). This term of art has appeared in central documents including the 14th Five-Year Plan and it is referenced regularly in state-run media. The two components of this tifa, “Accelerate Digitalized Development” and “Build Digital China,” are also used individually.
Theoretical Terms (理论术语): In general, “theoretical terms” express “China’s reality through the creative application of Marxist theory.” With the coming of the digital age, the Communist Party has created new terms, or captured existing terms, to express a new specific reality that combines national informatization and socialist modernization.
Informatization (信息化): Applying information technology, in three stages: Digitization Stage (数字化), Networkization Stage (网络化), and Intelligentization Stage (智能化).
New Stage of Informatization (新阶段): The “New Stage” is the “Intelligentization Stage,” which China entered in the 2015-2017 timeframe. This stage is the “major context” driving the construction of Digital China.
Digitalization (数字化): Applying value to data, in three stages paralleling informatization: Digitalization of Offices Stage, Digitalization of Society Stage, Digitalization of Things Stage.
Technical Terms (科技术语): As in the West, technical terms carry a specific meaning within a specified field of study. In the field of information and communications technology, official PRC definitions of technical terms can include strategic plans, tifa, and theoretical terms.
Industrial Internet (工业互联网): The Industrial Internet is a New Type Infrastructure (tifa), application model, and industrial ecosystem that deeply integrates a new generation of information and communication technology with the industrial economy. By comprehensively connecting people, machines, things, and systems, an entirely new manufacturing and services system is created that covers the entire manufacturing chain and entire value chain. From industry to manufacturing, the Industrial Internet provides a means of achieving digitized, networkized, and intelligentized development (theoretical terms). It is an important cornerstone of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. [China Academy of the Industrial Internet, 2021]