Home Technology Three areas of growth we can expect from China in 2021

Three areas of growth we can expect from China in 2021

by Tom Pattinson
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Dao Insights share their China predictions for 2021 in three key areas: digital society, healthy lifestyles and travel trends.

It’s no secret that 2020 was a year many would like to forget. But while much of the global community is still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, China is in a quite different situation. In fact, thanks to strict lockdowns in areas where cases pop up, the country managed to turn the rudder 180 degrees, ramped up domestic consumption, and is heading for a 7.9% GDP increase in 2021, according to the World Bank. Here are the three main areas of change based on key trends that emerged in 2020.

1. China’s digital society will advance to new heights in 2021 

Think of China these days and it’s hard not to talk about its technology and digital advancements which, quite often, are ahead of many Western countries’. Here’s what we can expect from digital China in 2021:

Digital governance  

Digital governance Credit Smartcitiesworld

Beijing is encouraging the use of electronic chops and seals to verify documents

With 940 million internet users, China has used digital transformation as a new means to modernise China’s governance and make it more convenient for citizens. In the past four years around 600 million users via Alipay alone gained access to urban services, including payment for electricity, water and property management fees. 

The digitalisation of documentation has also extended to the property market, allowing Beijing residents to purchase Beijing-based properties wholly online since 1 January 2021, ending the need to visit registration halls in person. 

Beijing residents can purchase Beijing-based properties wholly online since 1 January 2021

This is only the start for the Chinese government, as the expansion of e-government services will be ongoing in 2021. For example, Beijing is encouraging the use of electronic chops and seals to verify online documents, enabling bureaucracy to become quicker and more convenient. Electronic certificates for medical services and payments will also come into force next year, which brings us to the next digitalised sector. 

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Online medical consultations 

Online medical consultation Credit- Onix-Systems

Online medical consultation will also grow this year

Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the digitisation of China’s medical sphere as several tech giants launched new online medical consultation services. As well as preventing cross-infections in hospitals, these in-app services helped patients gain direct, rapid access to free professional healthcare information.   

One example is JD Health, e-commerce platform JD’s healthcare subsidiary, which launched its family doctor service in 2020 with the aim of helping over 50 million families by 2025. The digital platform offers 24/7 medical consultations and promises users a response within 48 hours. Users are also able to gain access to the highest quality of medical care through appointments with doctors from top ranking hospitals. But it doesn’t end there. As well as medical advice, patients can purchase over 220,000 healthcare products on the platform. 

Thanks to the convenience of online medical consultation services like JD Health, these are rapidly becoming patients’ preferred option over traditional face-to-face appointments and will only grow more popular in 2021. 

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Smart education 

Smart education Credit Beijing business newspaper

Smart education is seeing a rapid uptake due to an increase in home learning

China is home to the largest population of young netizens, with 93.1% of the country’s under 18-year-olds (175 million teenagers) using the internet in 2019, according to a report by China Internet Network Information Center and the Chinese Communist Youth League. Their hyper-connectivity provided the right conditions to scale-up online education when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

The rapid uptake of online education among schools, parents, and the general population looking to develop new skills, resulted in the development of countless new technology-based education platforms.  

For example, China’s largest online education start-up, Zuoyebang, which literally translates into ‘homework help’, launched its Cocos-courseware platform in September 2020. The AI-assisted learning platform has gesture, voice and face recognition functions that help to engage young students and monitor their concentration in class. No more sleeping on the desk it seems – even at home.

As educators and parents continue to discover the benefits of online education services, technology will become deeply ingrained in education – both through online learning and within the physical classroom. 

5G expands to 6G 

Shenzhen and Beijing have already achieved full 5G coverage

Does your smartphone have 5G capabilities? If you’re in China and the answer is no, you’re clearly missing out on some high-speed internet. 

Fun fact: China constructed 718,000 5G base stations in 2020, with Shenzhen and Beijing achieving full 5G coverage. Telecommunication company Ericsson China’s CEO Juntao Zhao was even quoted saying that “building a million 5G base stations in 2021 is not a problem.” Indeed, China will see a rapid step-up in the availability of 5G in 2021 with more cities gaining full coverage.  

While 5G will continue to be applied to develop key industries, authorities have announced that plans to rollout 6G in 2029 are already underway.  

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2. Covid-19 has re-invigorated China’s deep-rooted focus on health 

Chinese consumers have declared 2021 a year oriented around health, as Covid-19 still lingers in the country. The pandemic has inspired people to pursue a healthier lifestyle, which will be especially evident in dietary habits.  

 The power of plant-based  

Plant based products Credit Sina Finance

Plant-based products and veganism are on the rise

It has emerged that an increasing number of people are consuming less meat and more vegetables – a completely new lifestyle for most Chinese people, particularly those in lower-tier cities. According to the South China Morning Post, China’s vegetarian market is expected to grow by more than 17% between 2015 and 2020. Also, the demand for plant-based food is surging, resulting in an exponential growth of the meatless market. Several famous food brands took a step into China’s plant-based meat market in 2020: Starbucks, HeyTea, McDonalds and KFC all released plant-based products. As consumers look for healthier and meat-free options, more and more brands will tap into this market in the coming year.  

Dietary supplements  

Dietary supplement

Dietary supplement demand grew as a result of the outbreak but those combating hairloss and skin problems prevail


The demand for dietary supplements grew as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, as consumers sought to boost their health in order to fight the virus. In particular, supplements to regulate blood flow, protect organs and improve the immune system have skyrocketed in popularity. Those most popular among the post-90s generation are supplements to combat hair loss, skin and sleep problems.  

Due to quality and trust issues towards China-produced dietary supplements, many consumers have opted for foreign brands. Australian healthcare brand Swisse saw its GMV increase by 1,535% on e-commerce platform JD, which also welcomed 150 dietary supplement brands in the first quarter of 2020.  

3. China’s wanderlust is unstoppable  

Due to travel restrictions and self-quarantine rules, Chinese tourists were unable to travel abroad in 2020. As confidence in containment of the virus grew throughout the year, so did travel within China, resulting in a boost for the domestic travel industry.  

Domestic tourism booms 

The outbreak has reignited interest in domestic travel

What many people – even Chinese people – sometimes forget, is that China is a vast country brimming with incredible landscapes and historical sights. Thanks to the pandemic and several booster campaigns by local governments and travel agents, many have been reminded of this and found their passion to travel domestically reignite once more.

According to a report by the China Tourism Academy, China’s in-land travel market is expected to grow continually over the next five years, reaching 10 trillion RMB in annual tourism consumption. In fact, 10 billion domestic trips are predicted to take place per year by the end of 2025. We can expect continuous promotions of domestic travel destinations through campaigns, events and discounts.  

While Covid-19 will still affect people’s international travel plans, at least for the first half of 2021, international destinations should also prepare for an influx of Chinese travellers. 

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International travel remains on pause – for now  

The pace of recovery of international travel depends on national and international vaccine deployment and the ability to control the pandemic in a global context. According to a recent survey by the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRL), about 20% of Chinese travellers want to travel abroad as soon as possible within the Asia-Pacific region, with Europe being the most popular further-afield destination for Chinese tourists. South-East Asian countries are also keen to see Chinese tourists return, with Thailand even recognising the upcoming Chinese New Year as a special holiday for the first time to entice more tourists to come during the national holiday. 

Yet, the virus has changed the way in which Chinese people travel. When Chinese tourists restart their outbound travel, they will look to destinations which offer nature, authenticity, local culture and family-based travel options.  

China rapidly moves into the future 

China has made huge progress in digitising all aspects of society in 2020, from currency to bureaucracy to e-commerce – a transition which has been hastened by the impact of Covid-19. The forces driving these trends will continue to grow in 2021, with the application of digital technologies expanding throughout Chinese society. The virus made its mark on most industries, but nowhere more obviously than in the health products sector and in the growth of China’s domestic tourism industry.

This article was compiled by the team at Dao Insights. Visit their website for more.

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