China’s plan to become a world-leading technology force

Authors: Yutao Sun, Dalian University of Technology and Cong Cao, University of Nottingham Ningbo China On 12 March 2021, China released an outline of its 14th Five Year Plan (FYP) (2021–2025). The document charts a strategic, innovation-driven blueprint for Chinese development in the short- and medium-term. Science and technology and innovation in development, which were […] The post China’s plan to become a world-leading technology force first appeared on East Asia Forum.

China’s plan to become a world-leading technology force

Authors: Yutao Sun, Dalian University of Technology and Cong Cao, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

On 12 March 2021, China released an outline of its 14th Five Year Plan (FYP) (2021–2025). The document charts a strategic, innovation-driven blueprint for Chinese development in the short- and medium-term.

Science and technology and innovation in development, which were first highlighted in the 12th FYP, remain key ambitions. Innovation-driven development has become a national strategy for China, along with nurturing talent in science and education. Indeed, the second chapter in the 14th FYP describes innovation as the ‘heart’ of China’s modernisation drive. In order to fulfil China’s ambition to become a world-leading innovator by 2035, the outline elevates self-reliance and self-improvement (zili ziqiang) in science and technology as strategic action items.

In a departure from previous FYPs, the 14th iteration proposes increasing research and development (R&D) spending by at least 7 per cent every year between 2021 and 2025, and that R&D intensity — gross expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP — exceed levels recorded during the 13th FYP period.

China’s R&D intensity target was set at 2.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent for the 12th and 13th FYPs respectively. Although neither goal was achieved, R&D as a percentage of national GDP grew fast, with R&D intensity reaching 2.4 per cent in 2020. The new 14th FYP target presumably won’t be under that threshold, but Beijing has not specified a number yet. This may be due to presently high R&D intensity or uncertain economic growth prospects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Either way, ensuring that R&D investment levels do not drop amid a slowing economy while also allocating resources more effectively remain important challenges.

China’s scientific community wants a clear R&D intensity target. Scientists are specifically concerned about expenditure on basic research. The proportion of R&D spent on basic research in China hovered around the 5 per cent mark for decades before reaching 6 per cent in 2019 — still low compared with an average of 15 per cent found in developed countries. The 14th FYP outline indicates an increase in spending on basic research and a greater share of gross expenditure on R&D allocated for basic research: 8 per cent in the next five years.

Developing basic research not only requires funding but creative talent as well. Nurturing a good research ecosystem is crucial for stimulating the vitality and creativity of scientists. Measures to this end include fair and transparent research evaluations, an effective peer review system and penalties for academic misconduct.

Strengthening strategic technological forces will be a critical priority for Beijing over the next five years. China is formulating the ‘Actions for Developing China through Science and Technology’ plan to improve the new ‘whole-of-the-nation’ system (juguo tizhi) in a centrally planned market-oriented economy, achieve breakthroughs in core technologies, and improve the overall efficiency of its innovation system.

The ‘whole-of-the-nation’ system means that the state will mobilise national resources for specific objectives, such as developing strategic weapons technology. China needs to optimise and reorganise its innovation systems. National laboratories will lead the way in technology. From 2021 to 2025, China aims to establish a number of national laboratories in fields such as quantum information, photons and micro-nano electronics, network communications, artificial intelligence, biomedicine and modern energy systems.

But this approach is not perfectly applicable to all situations. It is most suitable for a few state-led fields with clear goals, such as high-speed rail and aircraft. It is less effective in market-oriented or exploratory fields without clear goals. In the transition from imitation to innovation, China needs to shift innovation leadership from the state to businesses, balance power between the government and the market and expand further into emerging industries through technology exploration and entrepreneurship.

Ultimately, it is intended that science and technology self-reliance and improvement will support and sustain industrial development. The Chinese government hopes to form a more innovative, higher value-added, more secure and reliable industrial and supply chains.

The 14th FYP focusses on upgrading Chinese manufacturing and transforming China into an advanced manufacturing superpower. The plan calls for boosting global competitiveness in areas such as robotics, new energy vehicles, aerospace and agricultural machinery. To best achieve these goals, the country should adopt a more market-oriented approach and cut red tape.

As tensions between China and the United States show no sides of fading, the challenge ahead is how to better connect China and the world. As China embarks on a new era of development, the grand strategic blueprint contained in the 14th FYP is encouraging, but making those plans a reality will require great effort and initiative.

Yutao Sun is Professor in the School of Management and Economics, Dalian University of Technology.

Cong Cao is Professor of Innovation Studies at the Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

The post China’s plan to become a world-leading technology force first appeared on East Asia Forum.
Source : East Asia Forum More   

What's Your Reaction?

like
0
dislike
0
love
0
funny
0
angry
0
sad
0
wow
0

Next Article

Why China will not rebuild Syria

Author: Samy Akil, ANU and OPC A decade since the start of the Syrian civil war, debate on the conflict is shifting toward the rebuilding of the country. China is increasingly being touted as a leading candidate to address Syria’s post-conflict reconstruction at a time when Western powers and Syrian Assad regime allies seem either […] The post Why China will not rebuild Syria first appeared on East Asia Forum.

Why China will not rebuild Syria

Author: Samy Akil, ANU and OPC

A decade since the start of the Syrian civil war, debate on the conflict is shifting toward the rebuilding of the country. China is increasingly being touted as a leading candidate to address Syria’s post-conflict reconstruction at a time when Western powers and Syrian Assad regime allies seem either unwilling or unable to address the issue.

The European Union, the United States and other Western powers have ruled out investing in Syria while the Assad regime remains in power. The Biden administration has suggested that Syria will not be a foreign policy priority for Washington. And neither of Syria’s principal backers, Russia and Iran, are in a position to drive any serious reconstruction initiative.

Iran’s economy has been debilitated by the combination of COVID-19 and international sanctions, limiting its capability to fork out for Syria’s reconstruction bill. With its GDP estimated to contract at least 4.5 per cent over 2020–21, the ramifications of Iran’s economic fallout are projected to endure well into the future. Russian state coffers remain similarly depleted as the country battles deep recession compounded by Western sanctions and the pandemic.

China, in contrast, has managed the pandemic successfully and is bolstering its economy. China’s was the only major economy to record economic growth through the pandemic, expanding by 2.3 per cent in 2020 and increasing through 2021.

UN estimates in 2020 estimated Syria’s economic losses from the war at over US$442 billion, with at least US$117.7 billion in destroyed physical assets. There have been suggestions that Beijing may be looking to elevate Syria’s place in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, citing access to the Mediterranean and the lucrative potential of various reconstruction projects. Some note that Beijing’s growing role in the Middle East will eventually encompass Syria and, by extension, its infrastructure needs.

China has on multiple occasions voiced its interest in investing in Syria’s reconstruction process. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated in 2017 that ‘only by advancing reconstruction steadily can we give the Syrian people hope and provide guarantee for the long-term peace and stability in Syria’. Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed this notion two years later, claiming that ‘China stands ready to participate in Syria’s reconstruction’.

But expressions of interest differ from concrete steps. Apart from minor reconstruction pledges, peripheral aid donations — including most recently a batch of 150,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses — and small-scale investments — such as in Syria’s paltry automobile industry — Beijing has refrained from flexing financial muscle in Syria due to three major factors.

First, Syria remains fragmented. While the war has effectively been turned into a frozen conflict, large-scale military incursions are ongoing — including clashes between regime forces and the Turkish army. The potential for spillovers and sporadic flare-ups are high and likely to deter any Chinese investors interested in bringing capital to Syria. Sanctions are further disincentives, including the US-sponsored Caesar Act aimed at any foreign entities that provide funding or assistance to the Assad regime.

Second, the economic and political situation in Syria is still in sharp decline. Hyperinflation is becoming the norm. The Syrian pound is suffering from record levels of depreciation. In March 2021, it hit the grim milestone of 4000 pounds to the US dollar on the black market — from 47 pounds to the dollar at the outbreak of war. No region is being spared from soaring commodity prices, food insecurity and fuel shortages. Protests in response that call for the downfall of the regime in government-held strongholds, such as in Daraa and Suwayda, are becoming more frequent. Rumours of a transitional military council have been widely circulated within elite circles. China would not want to invest in a country whose political future is still up in the air and whose economic forecasts are dire.

Third, China’s perceived security interests far outweigh economic incentives in Syria. Beijing considers rebel-held territories in the northwest of the country ‘terrorist hotbeds’. It is especially concerned about the ethnic Uyghur fighters who have joined the al-Nusra Front (now Hayat Tahrir al-Sham), the Turkistan Islamic Party and Katibat al-Ghurba al-Turkistan. While the exact number of Uyghur fighters and jihadists is unknown, China’s special envoy to Syria Xie Xiaoyan has claimed the number to be as high as 5000. Beijing would likely rather see these fighters killed in combat; their capture or repatriation could be seen as a potential threat to their domestic national security.

This is a key pillar of China’s Syria policy. Beijing sees the Assad regime as the most reliable fighting force to combat Islamist groups on the ground, but the economic incentives to invest under his government are relatively weak. Beijing has shielded the regime on 10 occasions in the UN Security Council through its veto power and sought to provide legitimacy to Assad — all the while keeping at an arm’s length from the conflict and advocating a political solution based on mediation and dialogue.

For any substantial reconstruction effort, Beijing would need a durable political solution to the conflict. Beijing will have to wait and observe the general peace process, including what the 2021 presidential elections may bring, before taking any steps in that direction, but it is unlikely that much will change.

Samy Akil is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, the Australian National University, and a Non-Resident Research Fellow at the Operations and Policy Center (OPC), Gaziantep, Turkey.

This article is drawn from a recent report by Samy Akil and Karam Shaar, The Red Dragon in the Land of Jasmine: An Overview of China’s Role in the Syrian Conflict, available at the OPC.

The post Why China will not rebuild Syria first appeared on East Asia Forum.
Source : East Asia Forum More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.