Guizhou: China's pilot big data zone
The impoverished and mountainous south-western province of Guizhou has become a laboratory for China's future socio-economic priorities. Yet the likely failure of such policies could well serve as another example of the substantial capital misallocation within the country's planned economy Big data experiment.
Guizhou province is renowned throughout China for three products tobacco, tea and moutai, the country's most popular liquor. Despite these commodities, Guizhou remains one of the country's poorest and most underdeveloped provinces, set apart from many other more ethnically homogenous regions of China by its large ethnic minority groups notably the Miao, Buyi, and Dong.
Provincial leaders have attempted to capitalise on these natural resources [in Guizhou] to advance economic development plans
While the landlocked province is one of the poorest in China, its geographical location and climate are advantageous for energy-intensive industries. Guizhou occupies a plateau surrounded by mountain ranges, with a mild climate and a lower natural hazard risk profile than neighbouring Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, both of which face threats ranging from earthquakes to heatwaves. It is also rich in natural resources, including water and coal, allowing electricity to be generated cheaply and abundantly from locally-mined fossil fuels and hydro sources. Provincial leaders have attempted to capitalise on these natural resources to advance economic development plans, notably to increase the role of higher value-added technology services in Guizhou's economy. In 2016, the province became China's first Big Data Comprehensive Pilot Zone', placing it at the forefront of the country's growing big data industry. This sector collects and stores vast amounts of information for various purposes, including the improvement of business operations and practices. From a broader policy perspective, the Chinese government's objective in locating this industry in Guizhou is to assess whether the sector can spur economic development in remote regions without compromising the environment.