With China’s Central government kicking off a project nicknamed “eastern data western calculation”, tech giants such as Tencent and Alibaba are planning to build more data centres. These data centres are being planned in western China with an intention to store and process more digital data in the country’s western provinces.
China has approved the setting up of hub nodes of the national computing power network in multiple regions including the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the Chengdu-Chongqing urban agglomeration, North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and Northwest China’s Gansu Province. All of this marks the official start of the “eastern data western calculation” project, according to a document released by several government departments recently, according to a report by Global Times.
East to West Connection
President Xi Jinping has articulated that China should become the global centre for AI by 2030. Beijing’s efforts are guided by a national big data strategy, an effort that encompasses economic, military, police, and intelligence functions. China’s leaders’ quest to achieve an artificial intelligence (AI) capability to perform a variety of civilian and military functions starts with mastering big data analytics — the use of computers to make sense of large data sets, according to a report by RAND Corporation.
These initiatives are a part of that strategic direction. According to information sent by Tencent to the Global Times, the tech giant has allocated data centres in a number of provinces. For example, the company has put into operation a data centre in Gui’an of Guizhou, with a total area of about 470,000 square meters. Tencent is expected to store 300,000 servers in the data centre.
Tencent also planned to build two data centres in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, as well as one data centre in Shanghai. “Tencent will actively participate in China’s initiative of ‘eastern data western calculation’, optimize the current allocation of data centres, enhance trans-regional computing power relocation,” said a Tencent representative involved in a relevant project.
Similarly, Alibaba Cloud has arranged to build more than 100 data centres in 25 regions around the world so far, said Qu Haifeng, a research fellow of the Alibaba Cloud data centre, according to information sent by Alibaba Cloud to the Global Times on Sunday. Further, five of them are super data centres. They are located in Hangzhou and Nantong; Heyuan of South China’s Guangdong; Zhangbei of North China’s Hebei Province, and Ulanqab, a city in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
According to the country’s top state planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, the clusters will be built in the northern Inner Mongolia region, northwestern Ningxia region, Gansu province and southwestern Guizhou province. The four locations can use their energy and environmental advantages to set up green and low-carbon mega data centres, the National Development and Reform Commission said.
Industry watchers attribute this move to the fact that energy-guzzling data centres located in China’s eastern locations have found it difficult to expand due to sanctions imposed on electricity consumption by local governments. In October 2021, local Chinese authorities have ordered power cuts at many factories, as directives from the government have mandated a reduction in carbon emissions.
China aims to expand its big data industry to 3 trillion yuan by 2025 by building several clusters of data centres, according to a 2021-2025 plan by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
Additionally, Guian New District, the eighth national new area in China, has 15 large and super-large data centres in the pipeline or under construction, making it one of the regions with the largest number of super-large data centres in the world. In the near future, this cloud centre surrounded by mountains will also give impetus to China’s project of processing the data from the country’s east in the country’s west to accelerate the development of digital China.
With the construction of a new batch of contracted projects, the investment scale of data centre in the new district is expected to exceed 100 billion yuan by 2025, according to Guian New District’s big data development service centre.