Visitors check out 5G-enabled services and products during the China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing on Sept 7. LU PENG/XINHUA Efforts to leverage market potential and resilience keep uncertainties at bay China's industrial economy will maintain sound and steady growth this year, while the strong industrial chain will keep economic uncertainties at bay, a regulatory official said on Tuesday. "Our confidence stems from China's efforts to fully leverage its market potential and resilience, especially on back of its experiences in work resumption and production since the COVID-19 outbreak," said Tian Yulong, chief engineer and spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. "Such efforts will give full play to the complete manufacturing system and strong supporting capabilities, and will further boost the country's global competitiveness," Tian said during a State Council news briefing. In particular, China will work hard to advance industrial technologies and modernize industrial chains in the next few years, as envisaged in the country's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) guidance. Industrial development still faces pressure and challenges this year due to the pandemic and global economic downturn, he said. "Though the recovery has been steady, in some sectors there has been an imbalance between supply and demand. Some companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, may also face operational difficulties," he said. Despite the negative effect of the epidemic and economic uncertainties, the country's industrial output grew by 2.8 percent on a yearly basis last year. The industrial output of 20 of the 31 manufacturing verticals saw year-on-year growth, the ministry said. Qin Hailin, president of the China Center for Information Industry Development Consultancy, a Beijing-based consultancy, said the uptrend in China's industrial output is likely to continue this year, given the good momentum in high-tech manufacturing. Last year, the high-tech manufacturing segment grew by 7.1 percent, 4.3 percentage points higher than that of the overall industrial output. Output of industrial robots, new energy vehicles and microcomputer equipment increased by 19.1 percent, 17.3 percent, 12.7 percent, respectively, on a yearly basis, according to the ministry. "The accelerated construction of 'new infrastructure' such as 5G and industrial internet has played a critical role in the uptrend and helped the transformation of a slew of traditional industries," Qin said. Zhao Zhiguo, head of the ministry's information and telecommunications management department, said China will build more than 600,000 5G base stations this year and speed up the construction of 5G base stations in counties and towns this year. By the middle of December last year, the country had more than 718,000 5G base stations and 5G services were already available in more than 300 cities at the prefecture level and above. The information and communication industry maintained steady and rapid development last year. The total volume of telecommunications business increased by 20.6 percent on a yearly basis, while revenue from software and information services rose by 13.3 percent. "China gained momentum in 5G commercialization last year. More than 600,000 5G base stations were built, while the number of 5G terminal connections surpassed 200 million during the period," said Zhao. "More efforts will be made to combine 5G with emerging consumption models, including augmented reality, virtual reality and immersive games." According to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, an international association of mobile operators better known as the GSMA, China has consolidated its position as a global leader in 5G and had accounted for 70 percent of the 5G connections in the world by the end of 2020. China is also forecast to have 450 million 5G connections by 2025, the most worldwide, driven by significant operator investment and growing enthusiasm among consumers and enterprises, it said.