context: CEWC (Central Economic Work Conference), which sets the economic agenda for the year, made scitech innovation its top priority. A mid-to-long term scitech development plan (2020-35) is being drafted, with Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang 王志刚 outlining similar priorities to CEWC in November and Premier Li Keqiang emphasising basic research at the National Leading Group for Science and Technology.
Scitech innovation has become the arena for great power competition, says Li Ming 李萌 Vice Minister of Science and Technology, commenting on its prominence at CEWC. Scitech governance should be improved faster, says Li, for China to gain the upper hand as internal and external circumstances have profoundly changed, and economic and scitech globalisation are retreating. A comprehensive network should be built around regional innovation centres that link to the international scitech innovation centres of Beijing, Shanghai and the Greater Bay Area, says Li.
Strengthening national strategic scitech power, says Wang Ge 王革 CASTED (Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development), primarily means
- launching national labs
- improving national tech innovation bases
- optimising the use of research institute, university and corporate R&D capabilities
- setting up unique local innovation growth poles
New technologies will receive government support in 2021, adds Liu Ligang 刘利刚 Citibank Research Unit president, including tax exemptions and state investments. Liu adds that breaking tech strangleholds takes time.
Despite recent rhetoric, basic research remains underdeveloped, says Chen Wen 陈雯 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences School of Resources and Environment. The weakness of basic research is a major challenge, agrees Zhang Mizhi 张宓之 Shanghai Institute of Science. State investments are up, but are neither comprehensive nor systematic. A 10-year plan (as CEWC proposes) would employ the new nationwide system to integrate resources scattered across local and central departments, and provide a long-term vision. Ten years also puts a caesura at 2030, says Chen, well on track towards becoming a scitech powerhouse by 2050.