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China to become innovation powerhouse by 2020

Zhang Yue
Updated: Jul 20,2016 8:12 PM     

Premier Li Keqiang urges deepening reform and encouraging the enthusiasm of scientific and technological workers to build China into an innovation-driven country and a leading power in science and technology at the national conference on science and technology on May 30, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

China aims to become an innovation powerhouse by 2020, according to a newly adopted national plan on scientific and technological innovation during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

The plan was passed at the State Council executive meeting on July 20, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

“This is the first sub-plan under the 13th Five-Year Plan that was held for discussion, which fully demonstrates that we’re giving top priority to innovation,” Premier Li said.

According to the plan, China is to further advance its global ranking in innovation competence, with the country’s combined efforts in enhancing original innovation, building key science innovation parks, and attracting top-tier science and technology researchers.

The Ministry of Science and Technology spent two years drafting the plan and sought suggestions from related departments during the process.

According to the new plan, China will start implementing a series of key scientific and technological innovation projects. The plan also stressed research emphasis on areas that will contribute to China’s industrial upgrading and new economy, including modern agriculture, clean and efficient energy, and mobile telecommunication.

Innovation zones will be established according to the plan, with Beijing and Shanghai pioneering the effort.

“Science and technology innovation should always keep a close eye on their application,” Premier Li said.

The government has, since 2013, repeatedly highlighted the importance of innovation, providing support and encouraging mass innovation and business start-ups. Innovation is of vital importance as the economy is shifting from one driven by investment and manufacturing to one more consumption-based and service-focused. Figures from the National Bureau of Statistics show that in the first half of 2016, consumption contributed 73.4 percent to national GDP growth.

Business start-ups in China with innovative ideas and investment have been flourishing in recent years. Some indigenous innovations have greatly changed people’s lives, such as the mobile messaging app WeChat, offering a user experience that can rival international competitors.

The plan also singles out measures to tackle particular obstacles that have long been hindering science and technological innovation, such as a more systematic technological transfer from research institutions to companies, reform of the management system for science and technology, better coordination to improve resource distribution as well as IPR protection.

“The case for overhauling science and research systems and generating greater enthusiasm among science and technology researchers is very strong if we mean to enable true breakthroughs in innovation,” Premier Li said.