China to establish data centers to provide digital infrastructure

In an effort to enhance connectivity, China approved plans to build four mega clusters of data centres in the country’s north and west in order to support the data needs of Beijing and major coastal centres, according to the country’s top state planner on Wednesday.

As such, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced the approval of those data center developments in the northern Inner Mongolia region, northwestern Ningxia region, Gansu province, and southwestern Guizhou province, all of which have the benefit of strong energy supply and good environmental conditions.

The four locations will be using their energy and environmental advantages to set up green and low-carbon mega data centres, the state planner said.

To understand more, the move comes after data centres located in China’s east had a hard time expanding due to limits imposed by local governments on electricity consumption.

Some cities in China’s northern and western regions rich in renewable energy resources such as wind and solar power have already built data centres to serve the economically developed coast.

It is worth mentioning that China had about 74,000 data centres in 2019, accounting for 23 percent of the global total, according to an April report published by Greenpeace, an environmental activist group.

“Data centres and 5G are strategic resources and public infrastructure that support the future economic and social development, while they are also the most crucial part that matters to the new infrastructure’s energy conservation and consumption reduction,” China’s National Development said in a statement.

In addition, the Communist country is home to the world’s largest 5G network and the world’s second-biggest data-centre industry after the U.S. in 2020. In parallel, it considers digital infrastructure as a top priority for boosting employment and economic growth.

But their distant locations have meant the centres have struggled to provide the near-instantaneous retrieval demanded by coastal clients with little tolerance for delays.

However, it is unclear the way China would want to turn western and northern regions such as Ningxia and Gansu, which are 1,000 km (600 miles) from the coast, into actively operating centres of computing power, given the data latency caused by the huge distances to data users in the east.

Data centres particularly employ lots of electricity, hence construction of modern data centres tends to focus on renewable energy, in order to lower long-term power costs.