China keen to establish BRICS innovation base focussing on 5G

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China is considering establishing a BRICS innovation base to strengthen cooperation among the five-country bloc including India in sectors like 5G, AI and digital economy, industry and information technology minister Xiao Yaqing has said.

Xiao said Beijing is actively considering setting up the base in China in order to strengthen practical cooperation among the members, which include Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS).

Monday’s video meeting comes ahead of the likely summit of the BRICS foreign ministers’ early September.

The coronavirus pandemic has badly impacted the economies of all five countries in the bloc with Brazil, India, Russia, and South Africa in the top five, after the US, in terms of infected people.

Addressing a video meeting of the bloc’s industry ministers on Monday, Xiao urged members to boost cooperation in new technology areas, according to Chinese state media.

According to the state media report, Xiao urged BRICS countries to strengthen their cooperation on “…digital transformation, especially in 5G, AI, the digital economy and others, to promote the digital transformation of enterprises and their innovation capabilities, and to promote sustainable economic and social development”.

China’s interest in promoting 5G within the BRICS bloc could be part of its interest in pushing tech giant Huawei internationally – Huawei’s name has come up as a contender to build the network in Brazil and South Africa even as it is embroiled in controversies in other countries.

Interestingly, a Financial Times report says that India is gradually phasing out Chinese vendors from its telecom networks including Huawei following the deadly Galwan Valley clash on June 15.

Xiao added that China is vigorously promoting the resumption of work across the entire industry chain and is keen to see more development in new industries such as 5G, AI and the industrial Internet during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At present, growth in China’s industrial economy is gaining momentum, in turn supporting the steady recovery of China’s overall economy, and contributing to a new impetus and stability in the global industrial chain and supply chain,” said Xiao.

The minister added that the pandemic has brought both challenges to the BRICS’ industrial anti-risk capabilities, but also opportunities for industry transformation and development.

“BRICS countries should cooperate to promote economic recovery, strengthen communication and sharing their experiences in epidemic prevention and control, guarantee medical supplies, resume work and production, and promote economic development during Covid-19,” Xiao added.

The BRICS multilateral bank, the New Development Bank (NDB) has loaned $4 billion to China, India, South Africa and Brazil to fight the pandemic under the emergency assistance programme.