FEATURE: China’s smart cities

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - All of China is beautiful, clean and modern, but my latest visit with other foreign journalists revealed one of the greatest surprises of this astonishing country with a trip to Jinan, one of the nation’s “smart” cities. 

Jinan is the capital of Shandong province and is located in eastern China.

Mr Jelly Glenn Musico and I participated in this one-week programme. Mr Jelly is my friend and is from the Philippines where he works for the Philippine News Agency.

Our group of reporters spent almost two hours on a high-speed train travelling at a maximum speed of 346 kilometres an hour on the way to Jinan to see the city’s operations management centre.

While we were at the centre and listening to the operators explain the workings of the city, CCTV captured everything that was taking place on the sidewalks outside.

In a smart city, cameras can instantly capture a person’s face to identify their name, where they live, and their nationality. It was like a movie produced in the 21st century.

I like China, or the Land of the Dragon as it is sometimes referred to. I often think of it as my home because I spent 10 months there in 2017 on a training course and got to know the culture and way of life well.

After we had been listening to an explanation of Jinan’s control centre for about five minutes, Jelly turned to me and asked if I had heard what the speaker had just said. “What was that?” I answered instantly.

“Mr Khone,” he began, and I looked at his eyes as they gleamed with excitement and was eager to hear what he had to tell me. “He said there are over 6,000 CCTV cameras in Jinan. Wow! They are in every corner and place,” he exclaimed.

He turned his head and looked at me again. “Mr Khone, does your country have some smart cities?” he asked politely. “Not now my friend, but in the distant future it is possible,” I told him.

After that, Mr Jelly was fascinated by Jinan’s CCTV system and the fact that every man, woman and child could be identified.

Jokingly he said, “Mr Khone, I forgot to ask, can a camera identify a ladyboy?”

After the sun went down that evening, we all went to see a “sparking” show - an impressive display which lights up the city. It is a key competitive tourism project created by Jinan city and implemented and operated by the Jinan Culture and Tourism Department Co., Ltd.

It integrates Jinan’s special features in three ways – through boat travel, a Minghu show. and night-time leisure. It is a display of Jinan’s human culture as well as its multiple and comprehensive developments.

Jinan began the construction of a new form of smart city at an advanced level in 2017, as a practical step to implementing the national strategy to foster China’s strength in cyberspace and building a digital China and a smart society.

Jinan smart city became operational in April. As the brain of the city, the centre is a physical platform built for both daily urban operation and emergency response, fulfilling the functions of city operation and management and receiving visits from political delegations.

In addition, Shandong province has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, namely Mount Tai, the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and the Great Wall of Qi.

Over the past 70 years, commerce, which started from lowly beginnings, has flourished in China. The total retail value increased from less than RMB30 billion when the new China was founded to RMB3.8 trillion in 2018, making China the second largest consumer market in the world.

China has for several successive years contributed more than 30 percent of global economic growth, serving as a stabiliser and a driving force of economic development.