China's top 100 internet companies have beefed up research and development (R&D) spending, driving their emergence as first-tier international players and laying down a sound footing for growth of the nation’s digital economy, a report said on Wednesday.
The collective R&D spending of the top 100 domestic internet giants led by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd hit a new high of 153.87 billion yuan ($21.86 billion) last year, up 45 per cent year-on-year, according to the report released by the Internet Society of China and an information centre affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Jiao Xulu, an official at the ministry, said domestic internet companies are making steady R&D progress, with a string of internationally competitive players emerging in the fields of cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and other technologies.
“On average, they invested about 10 per cent of their revenue into R&D in 2018, with four of them devoting 30 to 35 per cent of their revenue to R&D. The figures highlighted Chinese companies’ intensified efforts to pursue innovation and achieve breakthroughs in core technologies,” Jiao said.
The list of China’s Top 100 Internet Companies is compiled based on criteria including revenue, profit, innovation capability, social influence and corporate responsibility. Alibaba topped the list, with social networking giant Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc occupying the second and third spots, respectively.
The 100 companies recorded a combined revenue of 2.75 trillion yuan last year, about one trillion yuan more than in 2017, highlighting the solid development of the industry, the report added.
Zhang Feng, chief engineer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said the trend is continuing this year, with the internet becoming a crucial engine of China’s digital economy.
“The internet will effectively promote supply-side reforms, optimise industrial structure, enhance efficiency and help widen imports and exports,” Zhang said.
In the first half of this year, the size of China’s internet market grew 17.9 per cent year-on-year, faster than the global average. The nation now boasts 830 million netizens.
As digital technologies are becoming increasingly intertwined with traditional sectors, a string of new application scenarios have popped up covering 17 industries, including public services, online media, music and videos, social networking, transportation and intellectual property.
Alibaba vice-president Xing Yue said the company has ramped up its push to promote e-commerce in countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
“We aim to register two billion individual users around the world by 2036,” Xing said. By the end of March, the group had 654 million annual active customers.
Pang Songtao, vice-president of Inspur, the largest server maker in China, said: “We will step up our R&D push to better help traditional businesses accelerate digital transformation.”