Just over 1.4 billion people live in China. That's a fifth of the world's population and four times as many people as the United States.
A vast number of them are sharing medical records, paying for meals and accessing bank accounts through technology on a daily basis, on scale not seen in Europe or the U.S.
A number of CEOs, investors and top tech leaders at CNBC's East Tech West conference this week have cited one common theme that binds them all: data is today's gold, more so in China than anywhere else.
China's edge in the tech race is vast amounts of data and, more importantly, the willingness of its public to share it.
"China is so interesting because there is so much data," said Edith Yeung, head of 500 Startups' China unit.
"I think there are a lot of Chinese citizens really proud of the fact that we're actually big enough to even be able to compete with the U.S. in terms of AI. And I think it is just a really exciting time to be in China."
She suggested that this willingness from the Chinese public will aid data-hungry firms that are looking to enhance and launch new AI projects.
China's tech firms, big and small, are capitalizing on this gold mine of data. Russ Shaw, the founder of tech association Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, told CNBC via email that China is collecting "unprecedented amounts of data, unlike anything we are seeing in Europe and the U.S. The combination of advanced technology and government backing has allowed the country to harness the power of its enormous population."
This has shaped public attitudes in China that are somewhat different to those in the West. Holly White, a former U.K. civil servant in Beijing and now a senior consultant with international IP consultancy Rouse, told CNBC in an email that established "social structures" have led China's citizens to "accept a blurred line between private and state involvement in their lives."