Science, Technology & Innovation at the Forefront of Chinese development

December 31, 2021
About the author: 
Marco Carrasco-Villanueva
Specialist in Monitoring and Evaluation, Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru
Research Associate, Seeds of Change Consulting, Brooklyn, New York
NASA Space Apps Local Lead for Lima, Peru

Chinese President Xi Jinping has received acclaim as the primary innovator of the set of political ideals known as the “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.” In the second half of 2022, the intention is for that to be abbreviated as the “Xi Jinping Thought.” President Xi is also credited for retaining the values of Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development. Meanwhile, he is receiving plaudits for birthing original ideas and strategies, as well as his ideas on some of the world’s most pressing issues.[1]
The ongoing trade negotiations between China and the United States have focused on China’s rapidly improving technological capabilities. China has ambitions to be at the forefront in nascent technologies, and the U.S. seems suspicious that China’s progress in this key area is because of the Chinese theft of US intellectual property and forced technology transfers. However, observers of China’s scientific development over recent years point to the incredible improvements in the country’s capacity to innovate combined with the science base required for progress in knowledge-intensive sectors it hopes to perfect.[2]
China’s increasing capabilities in science, technology, and innovation (ST&I) are in part attributed to “a grand experiment” that began 15 years ago with the Chinese government’s launch of the National Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (2006–2020) (MLP). This document is responsible for the indigenous innovation strategy and has served as the catalyst for China’s ambitions to become an innovation-oriented country. The transition from the existing MLP to a new one that is soon to be introduced and charts the next 15 years of China’s development path in this regard has practical and historical significance for both the Chinese and the international communities.[3] China’s progress in science, technology, and innovation over the last 15 years has been both rousing and unnerving. Indeed, the nation’s planning experience has caught the attention of ST&I policymakers and the international scientific community alike.
The 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) endorsed by the National People’s Congress on March 11, 2021, outlines that China will “adhere to the core position of innovation in China’s overall modernization and take S&T (Science and Technology) self-reliance and self-improvement as the strategic support for national development.” The FYP sets out four primary tasks for China to fulfil its ambitions of becoming a leading innovative country by 2035. These are: improving the technological innovation capability of enterprises, strengthening the nation’s strategic S&T power, refining S&T innovation institutions and mechanisms, and stimulating the innovative vitality of talent. The next MLP is likely to continue this approach. China has enjoyed consistent progress up league tables for international innovation. For example, the Global Innovation Index, which placed China in 29th place in 2007, placed it in 12th in 2021.[4] Meanwhile, all indications point to continued progress in the coming years.
This article is from the December issue of TI Observer (TIO), which is a monthly publication devoted to bringing China and the rest of the world closer together by facilitating mutual understanding and promoting exchanges of views. If you are interested in knowing more about the December issue, please click here:

[1] “Xi Jinping's position cemented in history as China's Communist Party passes resolution.” Wion, Nov. 12, 2021.
[2] Richard P. Suttmeier, “How China Is Trying to Invent the Future as a Science Superpower,” Scientific American, June 29, 2018.
[3] Yutao Sun and Cong Cao, “Planning for science: China’s “grand experiment” and global implications,” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8, 215 (2021).
[4] WIPO, Global Innovation Index 2021: Tracking Innovation through the COVID-19 Crisis, (Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization, 2021).
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