Chinese consumers have adopted the digital world with lightning speed. Online shopping carts are transforming the face of China's economy, changing supply chains and putting pricing power in the hands of its 1.37 billion consumers.
China's policymakers have promoted their policy of "Internet Plus" to spearhead economic reform and foster the development of a consumption-led economy over the export-led growth of the past. The country's shoppers, already among the most internet savvy in the world, are using new shopping and payment gateways via WeChat, Alibaba and Taobao. This is levelling the playing field for suppliers, who now meet buyers online in an e-commerce market that has been growing rapidly.
For decades, China's economic expansion was powered by low-value-added manufacturing – cheap toys, shoes and textiles were "Made in China" and exported to the rest of the world. Those days are increasingly fading, and the focus now is on making the country's giant economy more productive, innovative and market-oriented.
The country is now the world's largest e-commerce market: online retail sales in mainland China totalled 3.877 trillion yuan in 2015, up 33.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to official data.
The shift to a digital economy is also changing customers' use of financial tools like e-wallets, e-payment and touch-pay systems. This enhances the digital ecosystem.
Many private-sector companies, too, have embraced the digital age. Companies have given rise to thriving social networks and transformed the way Chinese buy movie tickets and make hotel bookings, exchange shopping tips and compare prices. They have also enabled Chinese shoppers to spend, by putting them within a mouse click or phone swipe of goods from all over the world.
Crucially, this eager embrace of the internet has injected more market forces, transparency and competition into the Chinese economy, ensuring that quality, price, efficiency and service are rewarded more highly than ever before.
In other words, it is helping to make China's economy become more "digital".
The real impact will come if these market forces take root across all parts of the economy – in particular, the massive state-owned sector.
Not all state-owned enterprises have been quick to harness the power of the internet. However, those that do can reap substantial benefits. Digital tools can help them improve their sourcing, sales and logistics systems; streamline their often inefficient operations; engage with customers via social media; identify and track market trends; and boost their marketing, research and innovation capabilities.
The Chinese authorities have seen the successes in the private sector, and are now actively encouraging change in the state-owned sector, too.
The "Internet Plus" initiative aims to encourage China's manufacturers to deploy mobile internet, cloud computing, "big data" analysis and other tools, and to promote the development of internet banking and innovation. It also aims to support higher-tech manufacturing in agriculture, energy, finance, public services, logistics, e-commerce, traffic, biology and artificial intelligence.
Putting these policies in place could help provide momentum for China in the years ahead. The internet and its related technologies will change the nature of growth, particularly as labour costs increase and the country's population ages. They will create new markets for innovative products and services. And they will generate jobs for workers with digital and hi-tech skills.
In the long term, China's digital economy will help its international ambitions. Some of its technology companies are now among the largest in the world. They can leverage their experiences from their home market and export their successes to the rest of the world.