A group of diplomats look at a miniature 3-D map of Shaoxing Ancient City at the Digital Ancient Museum in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province, on Aug 29. (Photo by Qi Xiao/chinadaily.com.cn)
Arriving in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, Abrao dos Santos, ambassador of Timor-Leste to China, was deeply impressed by the tremendous changes he had witnessed.
One apparent difference from the time when he was here less than three years ago is the newly built Terminal 4 at the airport.
Officially starting operation at the end of September last year, T4, as the terminal is commonly known, covers an area of 720,000 square meters, doubling the combined area of the other three.
The sleek terminal is equipped with state-of-art technologies and intelligent services. For example, it is China's first airport terminal offering 5G-powered self-driving electric shuttles. Over 50 million passengers are expected to travel through the terminal each year.
"It simply boggles my mind that a futuristic mega structure like the terminal can be put in place in such a short span of time," he said.
In mid-November 2020, Abrao dos Santos came to attend the Third China Shaoxing International Friendship Cities Conference in neighboring Shaoxing city. This time, he was part of a diplomatic delegation on a three-day tour around Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Huzhou and Jiaxing in the province.
One purpose of the trip was to explore the latest developments in China's digital economy and digital technologies, of which Zhejiang province is a leader.
Home to the nation's leading e-commerce and internet companies such as Alibaba, Zhejiang saw its digital economy grow by 12 percent in 2022, reaching 4 trillion yuan ($546 billion).
"Zhejiang has developed tremendously over the past 20 years," especially in the digital economy and e-commerce, said Arthayudh Srisamoot, Thai ambassador to China.
Over the years, people in both China and Thailand have benefited from the development of the digital economy.
In December, the first digital free trade zone jointly developed by Alibaba and the Thai government officially began trial operations, enabling Thai consumers to receive their e-commerce orders from China in three days, compared with the previous 10-days.
"E-commerce allows Nepal to participate in the global economy by executing the potentials of local markets," said Bishnu Pukar Shrestha, Nepal's ambassador to China.
However, as the country's e-commerce is still in the early stages, he said, Nepal will need assistance in developing infrastructure for e-banking, online payments and big data, among others. Then, technological cooperation with China in e-commerce and digitalization will be much welcomed.
While developing the digital economy and technology has long been a priority for Zhejiang province, the rapid transformation the diplomatic delegation experienced has also been driven by the Asian Games, which will open in Hangzhou in less than three weeks.
Nowhere are the changes more notable, perhaps, than the competition venues erected for the upcoming event.
"What stands out the most is the beauty," said Monrada Yamkasikorn, a Thai diplomat, pointing to the Shaoxing Keqiao Yangshan Sport Climbing Center in Shaoxing, one of the five other co-host cities. "It blends with nature."
Situated near Yangshan Stone Buddha Scenic Area, the venue, where six gold medals will be up for grabs, is designed like a silkworm cocoon, a cultural symbol of sericulture in Zhejiang that was built on the site of an abandoned mine.
It shows the hosts' commitment to stage a green, smart, economical and ethical Asian Games, she said.
Thailand will send more than 900 athletes to the Hangzhou Asian Games, competing in all 40 sports, including rock climbing, badminton, volleyball and sepak takraw, among others, according to Arthayudh Srisamoot, the Thai ambassador to China.
Figures from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee indicated that some 12,000 athletes have registered to participate in the Asian Games, the largest contingent ever.