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The term ‘smart city’ relates to the use of technology to improve urban infrastructure and services, from energy grids to systems for transport/mobility and parking, and includes water treatment, waste management and security aspects, among others. China has made the smart city part of its national development strategy: the concept was endorsed by President Xi Jinping at a national urbanisation convention in 2015, and later explicitly mentioned in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), adopted in March 2016. Since then, the central government has massively encouraged the development of smart cities across Chinese national territory – claiming in January 2019 to have a total of 500 “smart city pilot projects ready or under construction”. It has also urged technology companies to become leaders at a global level, and to reach out to foreign cities in support of their own smart city development. China often promotes its smart cities through existing bilateral and regional frameworks (such as the China-ASEAN Summit or the China-Central Asia Cooperation Forum) and in particular under the banner of the ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ (BRI), as well as its derivative, the ‘Digital Silk Road’, which are attracting a significant number of countries.

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