China beefs up computing power as new economic catalyst
Xinhua 2024-07-09 09:50

A staff member checks equipment at a data center of China Mobile in Horinger, Hohhot City, north China's Inner Mongolia, Nov. 28, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Zhipeng)

BEIJING, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Amid the global race to build artificial general intelligence, the development of stronger computing power has become a major focal point of China's strategic initiatives, driven by the needs of a booming digital economy and innovations in large language models.

Data revealed at the Global Digital Economy Conference 2024, which closed on Friday in Beijing, showed that by the end of last year, the total number of standard racks in use at data centers nationwide had exceeded 8.1 million in China, with a total computing power of 230 EFLOPS. EFLOPS is a measurement unit used to determine a computer's speed. A 1 EFLOPS computing system can complete 1 quintillion floating-point operations per second.

In the era of interconnected devices and data surges, computing power, as the "new energy" of the digital economy, is reshaping global economic landscapes at an unprecedented pace, said Wang Xiaoli, who is with the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, at the conference.

Looking ahead, China aims to boost the country's aggregate computing power by more than 30 percent by 2025, according to a plan released by six government departments in October 2023. The plan also sets a target for China's total computing power to reach 300 EFLOPS by 2025.

During this process, computing systems and data centers require substantial electricity to operate and cool hardware, making energy efficiency a critical consideration in the development of computing power.

In order to meet increasing energy demands, China's related sectors have undertaken extensive efforts to integrate the development of green energy with computing power. At the just-concluded conference, Yan Gang, technical director of Yovole Network, a Shanghai-based cloud computing data center service provider, outlined their strategy for efficient energy storage using advanced energy management technologies.

"Our intelligent computing center employs combined cooling, heating, and power systems using hydrogen energy, photovoltaic storage, indirect evaporative cooling and liquid cooling technologies. In April, we also partnered with Tesla to apply their Megapack energy storage technology at our intelligent computing center," Yan said.

Meanwhile, due to the strong demand for computing power, eastern regions of China have shared development opportunities in the digital era with the rest of the country.

This aerial photo taken on Nov. 28, 2023 shows a financial technology center project of Bank of China in Horinger, Hohhot City, north China's Inner Mongolia. (Xinhua/Li Zhipeng)

Expansive and resource-rich western provincial-level regions in China leverage significant advantages in terms of green energy and favorable geographical conditions. These factors enable them to provide high-quality computing resources and have led them to seize the opportunity to establish massive data centers that support the country's intelligent industries.

In December 2023, the city of Ulanqab in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region signed a strategic cooperation memorandum with the Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy and Information Technology to promote the influx of green computing power into Beijing.

According to Chai Yue, vice mayor of Ulanqab, the city plans to provide Beijing with over 10,000 PFLOPS of green general-purpose computing power annually by 2025. One PFLOP, or petaFLOP, equals one quadrillion floating-point operations per second.

Additionally, the region's computing power resources have transformed it from a traditional hub of the livestock industry into an attraction for AI-related sectors. According to the Big Data Management Bureau of Hohhot, the regional capital, half of the 70 large models registered in Beijing are undergoing training in Inner Mongolia.

In addition to establishing infrastructure such as data centers, computing service providers across various industries are exploring ways to integrate computing power directly into enterprises, households and business districts.

This promising sector is exploring the "computing power plus" model, forging deep collaborations with sectors including finance, education, healthcare, and transportation.

In 2020, Beijing launched an autonomous driving demonstration area in Yizhuang, located in a southern suburb of the capital. The intelligent road system utilizes holographic smart devices to monitor traffic conditions, supported by multifunctional poles along the road that transmit computational data to vehicles and real-time cloud systems. This vehicle-road collaboration technology, powered by abundant computing resources, optimizes driving solutions for cars, thereby enhancing traffic safety and efficiency.

"Computing power is widely applied across various sectors, including government, industry, transportation, and healthcare, continually driving the emergence of new technologies, models, and business forms. This infusion of innovation is providing significant momentum for high-quality economic development," said Jin Zhuanglong, minister of industry and information technology.

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