Using “Made in China 2025” as an Opportunity to Accelerate the Construction of an Innovative Country
Leveraging the momentum of Reform and Opening Up, “Made in China” has become world-renowned, with Chinese products spread throughout the world. Most products display the [label] “Made in China,” which has contributed greatly to making China the world’s second largest economy. However, products made in China are primarily mid- to low-end products and OEM products.1 These products do not confer the advantages of technological innovation, which are required for industrial development; they require massive resources [to produce]; they cause serious negative externalities like environmental pollution; and to a certain extent, they weaken the competitiveness of Chinese products.
In their book China’s Next Strategic Advantage: from Imitation to Innovation, Professors George Yip and Bruce McKern from the China Europe International Business School clearly point out that [healthy] industrial development should rely on a competitive advantage in technology or innovation capacity, not on low labor costs.2 In the past, China’s manufacturing industry did not innovate and primarily copied, making it “big but not strong.” At that time, China’s strategic advantages were low labor costs and a huge domestic market. These two factors spurred China’s rapid development, but now these two factors are no longer enough. Innovation has become the focus of the Chinese government; it will make China’s manufacturing industry stronger, but it will not happen overnight. It may require 10 to 20 years.
Innovation is the propeller of modernization in human society. It is one of the most important factors in a country’s progress and development. Development is inseparable from innovation; innovation is the primary driving force of development and the strategic [backbone] for building a modern economic system. The actual circumstances of economic and technological development in today’s world also show that, on the stage of global economic competition, only countries with strong scientific and technological innovation capabilities can play a leading role in the exchange of goods and services in the global economy or lead [the direction of] global development.
Technological innovation is always important to the growth of any economic system. Industry is the primary source of economic growth and development. Without the development of industrial manufacturing, economic development would not be possible, to say nothing of the origin and existence of science and technology. The fusion point of science, technology, and industry has become the primary battleground for accelerated economic development. Once a concentrated explosion of scientific and technological invention occurs it will cause revolutionary changes in industry.
Humanity has already entered the fourth industrial revolution3–a new industrial revolution with intelligence at its core, embodied in cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence,4 quantum communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality. The foundation [of this revolution] is computers, genetic engineering, new materials, and new energy. In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab, founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, names unmanned vehicles (self-driving cars and drones), artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, new materials, the Internet of Things, genetic recombination engineering, and cellular fusion technology as core driving technologies.5 At a time when this new round of techno-scientific revolution and industrial transformation has not yet gained its [full] momentum, there are grand expectations for artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing and [these areas] have become the main battlefield for innovation. [In this battlefield], self-learning systems that use big data will expand the boundaries of human capabilities, strengthen internet security, and will utilize IoT technology to connect big data from users, manufacturing processes, and logistics supply chains, thereby spurring an industrial revolution in intelligent manufacturing. Explorations of “Internet +” are having a chemical-like reaction with more and more segmented industries.
Innovation leads every era. Driven by the global wave of innovation brought by the arrival of the fourth industrial revolution, China has no choice but to take the path of innovative economic development, continuously improving the innovative capabilities of industrial manufacturing, daring to advance the development of this industrial revolution, and accelerating the construction of an innovative country. [Only by doing this] can China have an enormous impact on the world economy while also promoting the sustainable and healthy development of its domestic economy. Technological innovation has brought us unimaginable changes, and we must embrace innovation. We must embrace the fourth industrial revolution.
The 18th Party Congress pointed out that implementing an innovation-driven development strategy6 requires techno-scientific innovation to act as the strategic backbone for improving society’s productivity and composite national strength. This must be placed at the core of the overall configuration of national development. With the implementation of Made in China 2025,7 “Made in China” will transform into “Intelligently Made in China” and “Created in China.” [The role that] China’s development path will play on the international economic stage evolves from imitation to leadership. The secret behind this [transformation] is innovation.
Made in China 2025 aims to improve the productivity of manufacturing, expand [manufacturing] to new areas, and focus more on the research and development of high-tech products and the development of the domestic market. Under the guidance of this innovation strategy, China has made progress in many areas of techno-scientific development. In terms of overall innovation rankings, China’s international ranking rose in the 2017 Global Innovation Index Report,8 which is published by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University, and other institutions. China’s ranking rose from 25th in 2016 to 22nd [in 2017], making China the only country among the world’s top 25 middle-income countries to be listed as a leader of global innovation.
At present, our country is still facing difficulties such as insufficient mastery of key core technologies and being trapped in the middle and at the low end of the value chain. The only way to change this unfavorable situation is to improve our innovation chain; promote collaborative innovation between industry, academia, and research entities; solve major general purpose technology problems; accelerate the rate at which new innovations are put into industrial use, and actively promote the construction of an innovative country. At the same time, [we must] continue to deepen reform of the property rights system and our techno-scientific structure, strengthen intellectual property protection, improve talent incentive policies, optimize the innovation environment, fully leverage the role of enterprises in innovation, and let innovation and social vitality burst forth through competition.
On our road to increasing China’s composite national strength over the next 30+ years, we need to continue to relentlessly pursue innovation. Only by persisting in our drive for innovation and daring to innovate and change can we break through the bottlenecks to economic growth and development and become the leader of the new industrial revolution.
To this end, we can promote innovation in the following respects:
1. Systematically build a knowledge innovation system, technological innovation system, knowledge dissemination system, and institutional innovation system, as well as supporting and auxiliary systems, with each having their own focus while also overlapping and supporting each other. Together they will form an orderly, cohesive, and open system for innovative economic development. A national innovative economic development system is, from the strategic perspective of systems construction, [meant to] comprehensively enhance the country’s innovation capabilities. [This system] is an innovative force formed through the integration and interaction of various innovation elements in the macro-innovation environment, such as culture, systems, institutions, and an innovation network composed of diverse innovative entities. [We] must avoid an innovation system “malfunction.” Reform must begin with the deep-seated institutional roots [of problems].
First: we must deepen the reform and improvement of various systems, including scientific and technological systems; education and cultural systems; fiscal, tax, finance, and investment systems; state-owned enterprise systems; and intellectual property systems. [We must] streamline policies for encouraging techno-scientific innovation, integrate diverse innovation entities, seek common social and economic objectives, and establish a linked innovation network oriented toward compatible incentives, using innovation as the key driving force for reform and development and promoting the effective allocation of social and techno-scientific resources and the integration of techno-scientific innovation.
Second: [We] must establish a comprehensive system for technological innovation that has enterprise as its mainstay, and that combines industry, academia and research with the participation of relevant government departments. This system should [serve as] a breakthrough in comprehensively promoting the construction of a national innovation system with Chinese characteristics, further optimizing the layout of China’s techno-scientific structure and the cultivation of techno-scientific talent, and stimulating the innovativeness of society as a whole.
Finally: we must optimize the innovation environment in [policies for] reform and strategic transformation, forming an overall rationale for techno-scientific innovation and providing good institutional mechanisms and safeguards for building an innovative country and developing an innovative economy.
2. Promote the reform of China’s enterprise-driven innovation model. In China, technological and scientific innovation has traditionally been promoted by the government. In its techno-scientific innovation system, China’s traditional innovation model has usually been promoted through government policies and direct investment, or by scientific research institutions and universities under government jurisdiction. This is a typical “government-driven model.” The government formulates policies for innovation, the government acts as the main investor in innovation, and the government allocates resources for innovation. Innovation, to a large degree, is a government task and the government plays an “omnipotent” role in the techno-scientific innovation process. However, with the gradually deepening market reforms and growth of private enterprises, the disadvantages of this government-driven model have become increasingly apparent, such as the lack of motivation among those [involved in] innovation and the low [level of] efficiency in innovation.
Therefore, on the one hand, it is necessary to change the government-driven model and reposition the government’s role in innovation. The government [should instead] serve the important functions of supporting strategic and basic research and development, guiding the direction of technological innovation and industrial development of enterprises, and building techno-scientific infrastructure.
On the other hand, enterprises should become the mainstay of national innovation activity and the core of the overall innovation system. Innovation capabilities are also an important reflection of corporate competitiveness. In this way, consolidating the position of enterprises as leaders in the national innovation system is an important means of enhancing the country’s innovation capacity. Only with enterprises as the mainstay of innovation will it be possible to maintain a market orientation toward technological innovation, quickly achieve the industrialization and commercialization of technological or scientific developments, and improve the market competitiveness of China’s enterprises.
3. Promote the construction of China’s innovative economic development system. In China’s national innovation system, universities and scientific research institutions are important sources of knowledge and technological [breakthroughs], and enterprises are the primary implementers of knowledge and technology. Together, enterprises, universities, and scientific research institutions form the core of the national innovation system; each one is indispensable. The concept of non-government innovation is also an important cornerstone of improvement in China’s innovation capability and plays a significant role in driving China’s culture of innovation. In order to build an innovative economic development system, China must first build world-class scientific research institutions, world-class universities, and world-class fields of study,9 [which will] strengthen China’s original innovation capabilities and contribute to economic and social development.
First: We clarify the functions of scientific research institutions and universities. We strengthen the leading role of scientific research institutions as the backbone of the research and development of basic and frontier technologies, as well as in the research and development of general-purpose technologies. We strengthen university research in basic scientific disciplines, and [raise] a number of scientific disciplines to world-class status. [We must] guide scientific research institutions and universities to focus closely on the major scientific research tasks [prioritized by the government] and effectively integrate and optimize scientific research resources. We must form interdisciplinary and comprehensive scientific research teams, which will be a foundation for comprehensive, high-level, and international innovation in scientific research.
Next: We must promote reform in corporate structures and in the intellectual property regime. We must strive to cultivate world-class, innovative enterprises; encourage industry leaders to build high-level research and development systems; form a complete organizational system for scientific research and new technology research and development; and consolidate high-end talent, systematically laying out an innovation chain that unites small and medium-sized enterprises, scientific research institutions, and universities within and across industries, providing comprehensive solutions for industrial technological innovation.
4. Build a professional, market-oriented technology transfer system to accelerate the commercialization of China’s scientific research achievements. In the construction of an innovative economy, a high level of focus [must be] attached to the catalytic role of a technology commercialization system, and the development of various techno-scientific services like research and development design; start-up incubation; inspection, testing, and certification; and intellectual property rights. At the same time, various nationwide specialized technology trading markets and market-oriented intellectual property trading platforms should be perfected, [allowing for] unimpeded channels of technology and intellectual property transfer.
From this it can be seen that the strategic objective of effectively promoting the construction of China as an innovative country and enhancing China’s innovation capabilities should be [as follows]: with regard to the market development of technology, establishing a market-oriented industry-university-research alliance with enterprises as the mainstay, [forming] an innovation collaborative network that incorporates non-government resources. With regard to basic and fundamental techno-scientific research, [China] should take a government-driven approach with scientific research institutions, universities, and enterprises as the backbone. With the coordination, assistance, and oversight of the government, multiple forces will work together to advance [China’s progress] on the path of indigenous innovation.
The Strategic Choice to Enhance Scientific and Technological Strength
Techno-scientific strength is the core component of a country’s composite national strength. Science and technology, particularly advanced science and technology with industrial uses, have become the primary driving force in social progress and have rapidly changed the international landscape. Many key high-tech areas, like outer space [exploration], deep sea development, bioengineering, information engineering, and the exploration of new energy and new materials are changing the balance of power between countries. Some countries have rapidly enhanced their composite national strength through advanced technology and the adjustments in industrial structure driven by these advances.
Currently, China’s level of techno-scientific development, particularly its high-tech capabilities, still lags behind the world’s most developed countries like the U.S., Russia, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, and Israel. In many respects, there is still much hard work necessary in order to shrink the gap between Chinese science and technology of China and that of the developed countries, as well as to increase the contribution of science and technology to China’s composite national strength.
1. Reform the Education System, [Raise the Caliber of] the People, and Cultivate a Techno-Scientific Elite
In the era of the knowledge economy, the most crucial component of a country’s composite national strength is techno-scientific strength. This in turn is dependent on education. Education is the fundamental element of techno-scientific strength. Enhancing techno-scientific strength is based on and carried out through the education and cultivation of talent. The more that modern production is based on highly-developed science and technology, the more it is dependent on education. The development and efficient utilization of a country’s resources is inseparably linked to science and technology, and the enhancement of techno-scientific strength is inseparably linked to the foundational work of education.
From the perspective of vertical development, China’s education has really made great progress. However, when assessed from a horizontal perspective and from the perspective of education quality, China still needs to focus significantly on the development of education and continue to implement educational reform.
Specific reforms include the following:
1. Increase the proportion of GDP invested in education. Although China’s expenditures on education account for a growing proportion of fiscal expenditures and GDP, the proportion of GDP is still far lower than that of developed countries and is lower than the international average. Since 2009, developed countries like the U.S., UK, France, Germany, and Japan have invested over 4% of their GDPs in education. Among them, U.S. investment has reached 6.22%. In the 20th Century, UNESCO called on all countries to expend at least 6% of GDP on education by the year 2000.10 As of 2019, China’s education investment as a proportion of GDP had remained above 4% for seven consecutive years, still short of its 6% target. This is not yet at the level required for science and technology [to serve as] the foundation of education, which limits [the growth potential] of China’s techno-scientific strength. Therefore, in the next 30 years, China needs to increase investment in educational expenditures, gradually reaching 6.5% [of GDP].
2. To adapt to the requirements of future urbanization, adjust the support structures for educational funding and reorganize the layout and educational models for primary and secondary schools. In the future, with increasing urbanization, industrialization, and agricultural modernization, a large number of people will move to small and medium-sized cities. In terms of supporting educational expenses, China needs to focus on supporting the expansion of primary and secondary schools at the county level and above,11 [liberally] admit children of new [urban] residents,12 and rationally distribute [resources among] rural schools, allowing primary and secondary education to develop and strengthen in cities that are more economically and culturally developed. At the same time, [China] should, when appropriate, reduce the duration of [required] schooling, reducing primary and secondary school duration by one year each. One day for extracurricular activities could be added each week, increasing students’ opportunities to engage with society and thereby improving the caliber of students.13 [The concept of a student’s caliber] should be comprehensive, including physical caliber as well.
The examination system and model [should be] reformed, reducing [the degree of] pure book knowledge required at the high school level and increasing the personal quality of exam questions, so as to promote the gradual improvement of students’ ability to practically apply knowledge, think creatively, and become more innovative. [We] must increase funding and support for primary and secondary schools in western ethnic minority areas and impoverished inland areas. We must alleviate weakened education caused by insufficient local financial resources. Maintaining educational equity will comprehensively improve the quality of the entire people.
3. Learn from the experience of technologically developed countries to reform China’s model of higher education. Colleges and universities are responsible for the basic tasks of preserving knowledge, disseminating knowledge, creating knowledge, and cultivating talent. Among them, a few top-notch universities also cultivate elites for the country and society, leading social progress by accelerating scientific research and innovation. Currently, China’s system of higher education has not adapted very well to the requirements of present-day developments. [Entire] fields of academic study are out of sync with the requirements for economic and social development.
The state must vigorously promote reform and make adjustments, orient general colleges and universities to [the needs of] society, implement a system where universities improve through competition, and remove state responsibility for all educational funding, allowing the state to select key disciplines and laboratories to support. [For general colleges and universities], funding should come primarily from the schools themselves and donations; funds raised by the university may be supplemented with selective [government] support on a case-by-case basis according to the [broader] requirements of social or economic development.
In terms of educational principles, general colleges and universities should place equal emphasis on imparting knowledge and vocational and technical training, focusing on applied sciences. [These universities] should not emphasize the cultivation of research-oriented studies at the doctoral level and post-graduate level in high-end disciplines; all graduates need to adapt to the needs of society and should [be educated in] fields that will enrich society, fulfilling society’s demand for talent at all levels.
The state should provide special policy and financial support for “985 Universities”14 and entrust them with the mission of cultivating high-end elite talent. These universities should completely divest their bureaucracies, eliminate or reduce non-teaching personnel, reform their academic system and training model, and focus on top-level, fundamental research and world-class academic research. As appropriate, less students should be enrolled in graduate programs, particularly PhD programs, so that fewer but more qualified PhDs can become the techno-scientific elites of the future.
The tenure system for professors in colleges and universities should be eliminated; there should be competition for jobs, and candidates must be selected from the best, so that the universities, for the sake of the country and humanity as a whole, can shape and educate the true techno-scientific elites that will lead the world. The historical experience of both foreign countries and China proves that the top scientific leaders are cultivated at world-class universities.
2. Establish an Techno-scientific Innovation System that is Guided by the State, with Enterprises as the Mainstay
Innovation is the primary driving force of development as well as a solid source of support for coping with risks and challenges. The enhancement of a country’s overall techno-scientific strength depends on establishing and improving mechanisms and institutions that focus on improving indigenous innovation capabilities and promoting the close integration of science and technology with economic and social development. The state should guide all of society in carrying out techno-scientific innovation in order to keep with prevailing trends and stay at the forefront of international science and technology. It should solve outstanding problems now limiting techno-scientific innovation. It should fully leverage the supporting and leading role of science and technology in building a national innovation system by transforming methods, adjusting structures, improving the people’s livelihood, and promoting harmony.
In this national innovation system, establish an institutional mechanism for enterprises to lead innovation in the research and development of industrial technology. The government should introduce various economic and social policies to guide and assist enterprises with both research and development and innovation, and boost innovation factors like technology and talent development to amass a number of innovation achievements that attract international attention, so these achievements benefit more people.
Today, almost all developed countries use enterprise as the main component of techno-scientific innovation. With enterprise innovation as the basis, macro, large-scale, and basic scientific research projects are undertaken at the national level. For some time now, the overall levels of science and technology, research and development, and innovation in Chinese enterprises has been insufficient or at a very low level. This has impacted the techno-scientific strength of the entire country. Because of this, China must genuinely implement measures to improve its scientific innovation system, guided by the state and with enterprises as the mainstay; accelerate reform of state-owned enterprises; and resolve issues related to state-owned enterprises, including the mechanisms, structure, property rights, and historical legacy of SOEs, in order to better solve techno-scientific innovation issues related to enterprises’ market-orientation and accelerate the commercialization of techno-scientific achievements.
It should be noted that, in recent years, the number of publications by Chinese scientific researchers has gradually caught up with that of the United States.15 However, there has always been a gap between China and foreign countries in the average citation rate of these publications and the rate at which scientific research results are converted [to practical applications]. [China’s] current system for evaluating scientific research has made scientists unwilling to expend significant manpower and resources to convert research outcomes into practical applications; enterprises have the motivation to do so but lack the technological foundation, and it is often difficult for them to muster the necessary capability to undertake this work.
Therefore, we must improve our system for evaluating the potential commercialization of applied technological research projects and set corresponding indicators. Scientific research institutions and universities should provide more support and services to corporate innovation. Techno-scientific personnel should be encouraged to establish technological enterprises. Enterprises should compete to conduct research and development of cutting-edge technology, based on domestic and foreign market demand and government macro-level plans – inspiring one another and competing with one another, thereby becoming the best they can be.
This will accelerate [the development of] an techno-scientific system that is driven by the market and supported by the government. All sorts of advanced products and technologies will continually emerge, ultimately improving China’s techno-scientific strength and raising the level of [scientific advancement].
Those who conquer themselves become stronger; those who strengthen themselves are victorious.16 Experience has repeatedly taught us that key core technologies cannot be acquired, bought, or begged for;17 innovation must rely on one’s own capabilities. What is most needed in the face of increasingly fierce international techno-scientific competition and numerous risks and challenges is a rational, scientific mindset paired with rousing action. [We must] persistently follow the path of independent innovation, eliminate the pain caused by a “lack of core and soul,”18 lay a solid foundation for innovation and development, and firmly grasp key core technologies in our own hands. By doing this, we will always be invincible and will have firmly grasped the initiative in economic and social development.
Techno-scientific prosperity will make the nation prosper; techno-scientific strength will make the country strong.19 To achieve the Two Centenary Goals20 and realize the Chinese Dream of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation, [China] must persist on the path of indigenous innovation with Chinese characteristics, advance toward the world’s technological frontiers, advance toward the economic battlefield, and advance toward the needs of our country by accelerating technological innovation in all areas and seizing the opportunity of global techno-scientific competition.
In today’s world, the historical trend of economic globalization is unstoppable, and a new round of techno-scientific revolution and industrial transformation is just beginning.21 Insisting on open cooperation and common development is in line with the trend of the times and conforms with the inherent laws of techno-scientific innovation. Indigenous innovation is innovation in an open environment, which requires harnessing energy from all over the world and the power of all parties.
3. Expand Investment in Scientific Research and Actively Introduce Cutting-edge Foreign Technology
Among the components of composite national strength, science and technology are the most critical. Economic growth, military strength, culture, and education are all [necessary to] support science and technology. Increasing techno-scientific strength requires investment. The countries at the forefront of the world today are also the countries with the greatest composite national strength. [In these countries,] the rate at which science and technology has contributed to economic and military strength has grown, driving economic development and increasing military strength.
The economic development of the United States, Japan, and Germany is mainly reflected in the rate of added value from advanced technology. These countries rely on technologically-intensive industries and products with low resource inputs and high technical content to push economic development; the military strength of the United States and Russia relies on the support of high-tech weapons [utilizing] precision guidance and long-range strikes. The economy and national defense [of such a country] cannot be strong without support from high technology.
In turn, a developed economy and strong national defense [capability] can promote and guide investment in techno-scientific research and development. Techno-scientific strength cannot be improved without the impetus of robust expenditures and investment or without military competition. American investment in science and technology exceeds all other countries in the world, and the techno-scientific strength of Germany and Japan is the result of significant investment in science and technology.
Since Reform and Opening, the scale of China’s investment in scientific research has generally increased each year, and budgets at all levels have continued to increase [allocations to] scientific research each year.22 In 2018, U.S. research and development investment constituted approx. 2.8% of GDP, while Israeli and South Korean research and development expenditures accounted for as much as 4.5% of GDP. Germany’s investment in scientific research accounted for 3.13% of GDP.
In this regard, China needs to implement and improve policies and measures to gradually increase society’s total expenditures on research and development; further increase the proportion of GDP spent on research and development; and, in the 13th Five-Year Plan and subsequent development plans, gradually align the proportion of scientific research investment with that of the United States. [With the objective of] increasing investment, [China needs to] improve its techno-scientific investment system; strengthen the deployment and coordination of techno-scientific innovation; focus on systems for technological innovation, knowledge innovation, and national defense techno-scientific innovation; improve the overall efficiency of the innovation system; emphasize investment in basic research; and increase research and development in [China’s] areas of weakness, like pharmaceuticals, software, semiconductors, and aviation.
In terms of scientific research investment:
1. Pay attention to: increasing the proportion of guaranteed and regular scientific research funding for scientific researchers; improving the living and working conditions of scientific researchers, particularly young and middle-aged scientific researchers; and protecting and expanding researchers’ space for free and independent thought, so they are more willing to spend time and energy on scientific research and improving academic standards.
2. Pay attention to the lack of state investment in corporate scientific research and the lack of [funding] channels available. Generally speaking, it is difficult for enterprises to [receive state research and development funding], particularly private companies that contribute significantly to productivity. The government should recognize that enterprises are the mainstay of techno-scientific innovation and are responsible for the commercialization of scientific research results, and change the excessive proportion of scientific research funding allocated to universities and invest much more in corporate research and development.
In addition, [China] must correctly handle the relationship between invention and imports. While increasing investment in domestic techno-scientific research and development, China must actively use its [plentiful] foreign exchange reserves and its monopoly over some scarce resources to make purchases from developed countries or obtain foreign countries’ advanced technologies and utility patents in exchange for resources those countries are lacking, shortening China’s research and development cycle.
1. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) sell basic components of other company’s products.
2. George S. Yip, and Bruce McKern, China’s Next Strategic Advantage: From Imitation to Innovation (Boston: MIT Press, 2016).
3. Popularized by Klaus Schwab (see note #5), the concept of the fourth industrial revolution presupposes three previous moments of momentous technological advance: the first, beginning at the end of the 18th century, saw the advent of steam power; the second, occurring in the closing decades of the 19th century, saw electrification, fossil fuels, and chemical production transform the global economy; the third, which began in the mid-20th century, occurred as calculators, computers, and digital communication technologies like the internet spread across the Earth. The next wave of transformative technologies– usually identified with developments in biotech, internet-of-things technology, or artificial intelligence–will compose the 21st century’s own technological revolution, the fourth industrial revolution. This idea has improved enormously influential in China, and is now part of the CPC official line. For a discussion of the relationship between the fourth industrial revolution and CPC conceptions of the future, see CST’s translation of Jin Canrong’s “The Uncertainty of the International Situation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
4. Artificial Intelligence occupies a central role in the Chinese state’s ambition to surpass the developed nations in science and technology. In 2017, the Chinese state released an AI development plan that commits substantial financial resources to AI research and development and education programs. The plan aims to surpass the United States as the world’s leader in AI by 2030.
5. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, introduced the concept of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" in his 2016 book of the same name. Schwab argues that humanity is on the brink of a new era characterized by the convergence of digital, physical, and biological technologies. These technological changes are distinct from the third industrial revolution, which was characterized by the widespread adoption of information technologies: digital computers, automation, and the internet. The fourth industrial revolution, Schwab believes, will be characterized by a range of new technologies that fuses new digital technologies (e.g. AI) with the physical world (“internet of things”) and with biological systems. This will impact all disciplines, economies and industries, eventually challenging our ideas about what it means to be human. Klaus Schwab, Fourth Industrial Revolution (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, 2016).
6. The State Council released the Innovation-Driven Development Strategy Outline in 2016 as a top-level initiative that ties together a myriad of industrial policies related to technological upgrade. For an English translation of the strategy outline, see Original CSET Translation of “Outline of the National Innovation-Driven Development Strategy”, [中共中央 国务院印发《国家创新驱动发展战略纲要》], Xinhua News Agency, 19 May 2016.
7. Launched in 2015, Made in China 2025 is a Chinese industrial strategy that aims to transform the country into a global technological superpower by 2049. The strategy outlines ten core industries, such as robotics, power equipment and next-generation IT, that must receive substantial state aid. Unlike previous Chinese industrial policies, Made in China 2025 is not intended to help China catch up with developed nations in established technological domains. It is also an initiative to surpass them in emerging technologies. For a detailed analysis of China’s industrial policy, see Barry Baughton, The Rise of China’s Industrial Policy 1978 to 2020 (Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 2021); and Max Zenglein and Anna Holzmann, “Evolving Made in China 2025: China’s Industrial Policy in the Quest for Global Tech Leadership,” Mercator Institute for China Studies, July 2019. For an English translation of the Made in China 2025 outline, see the Center for Strategic and Emerging Technology's Translation of “Notice of the State Council on the Publication of Made in China 2025,” PRC State Council, May 2015.
8. Sumatra Dutta, Bruno Lanvin, and Sacha Wunsch-Vincent (ed.), The Global Innovation Index 2017 (Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization, 2017). By 2023 China rose to spot #12. See World Intellectual Property Organization, Global Innovation Index 2023 (Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization, 2017).
9. Yi’s recommendation echoes the language in the “Double First Class” initiative that the State Council adopted in 2015. The initiative aims to “coordinate and advance the construction of world-class universities and world-class disciplines, achieving China’s historic leap from a major higher education nation to a powerful higher education nation.” State Council, “Guowuyuan Guanyu Yinfa Tongchou Tuijin Shijie Yifu Daxue He Yifu Xueke Jianshe Zongti Fang'an de Tongzhi 国务院关于印发统筹推进世界一流大学和一流学科建设总体方案的通知 [Notice of the State Council on Printing and Distributing the Overall Plan for Coordinating and Advancing the Construction of World-Class Universities and First-Class Disciplines],” October 2015.
10. Global Education Monitoring Report Team, World Bank, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “Education Finance Watch 2023,” UNESCO Digital Library, 2023.
11. The PRC has four administrative levels: the provincial level [省级], the prefectural level [地级], the county level [县级], and the township level [乡级]. The average population size of the county level administrative zone is 399,200 people.
12. Hukou [户口], officially known as the Household Registration System, is an administrative institution that plays a crucial role in controlling internal migration inside China. The system categorizes individuals into two primary types: rural residency and urban residency. This classification has significant implications for access to social services, education, healthcare, and employment opportunities; many millions of rural hukou holders live illegally in Chinese urban areas where it is easier to get work. These are the "new urban residents" Yi refers to; he is arguing that the route from rural hukou to urban hukou status be easier.
13. The word “quality” or “caliber” [suzhi 素质] is a commonly employed in contemporary Chinese social thought. It describes a person’s qualities measured in terms of his or her behavior, education, ethics, and life ambitions. Rudeness and bad behavior are commonly considered marks of “low quality.” Invoked in a political context, the “poor quality”–or low suzhi–of the citizenry is frequently cited as justification for autocratic oversight of the Chinese population. For more extensive discussions of the term in contemporary Chinese, see The Australian Centre on China in the World, “Suzhi 素质,” The China Story, access 9 October 2023; Andrew Kipnis, “Suzhi: A Keyword Approach,” The China Quarterly 186 (2006): 295–313.
14. Announced in May 1998, the “985 Universities” are a select group of universities that the Chinese government aims to elevate into world-class status through increased investment in infrastructure, faculty,and research. Since 2015, the original 985 Universities have been absorbed into a new education initiative titled “Double World-Class Project,” which aims to further enhance the global competitiveness of Chinese universities and specific academic disciplines.
15. According to the Nature Index, China has overtaken the United States as the number one ranked country for contributions to research articles published in a select group of high-quality natural-science journals in 2022. Different measures of performance show a more nuanced picture regarding citation and fraudulent research, however. For example, a 2022 report by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy shows that Chinese research comprised more of the top 1% of the most frequently cited papers than did US research between 2018 and 2020. See National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, “Japnese Science and Technology Indicators 2022,” National Institute of Science and Technology Policy Research Material No. 318, October 2022. Simon Baker, “China Overtakes United States on Contribution to Research in Nature Index,” Nature Index, 19 May 2023.For data on the number of Chinese publications since 2014, see Nature Research Intelligence, “Country/territory Tables, August 2022-July 2023,” Nature Index.
16. The saying “those who conquer themselves become stronger; those who strengthen themselves are victorious” originates from passage thirty-three of Dao De Jing, a Chinese classical text and foundational work of Taoism written around 400 B.C.
17. Yi is quoting Xi Jinping’s speech at a conference on the Chinese Academy of Chinese in May 2018. In the conference, Xi said “Experience has repeatedly taught us that key, core technologies cannot be acquired, bought, or begged for. Only by holding key core technologies in our own hand can we guarantee economic security, national defense, and other areas of security in a fundamental way.”
Keji Ribao 科技日报 [Science Daily], “Guanjian Hexin Jishu Shi Yaobulai, Maibulai, Taobulai De 关键核心技术是要不来、买不来、讨不来的 [Key Core Technologies Cannot be Acquired, Bought, or Begged For],” October 2022.
18. This is a reference to a comment by then-Minister of Science and Technology Xu Guanghua, who said in 1999 that China’s information industry lacked both a “core and a soul.” The “core” refers to a computer chip and the “soul” to the operating system, the meaning being that China is dependent on Microsoft (basic software) and Intel (core hardware} architecture, which leaves China fundamentally insecure. Liu Li 琉璃, “Quexin Shaohun, Zhonghua Ershi Nian Zhi Tong 缺芯少魂，中华二十年之痛 [Lacking of core and soul, China’s Twenty Year Pain],” Zhihu 知乎, May 2020.
19. Yi is again quoting Xi Jinping. “techno-scientific prosperity will make the nation prosper; techno-scientific strength will make the country strong” is a quote from Xi’s speech at a conference of the Chinese Academy of Science in May 2021.
Zhongguo Xinwen Wang 中国新闻网 [Chinese News Online], “Keji Xing ze Minzu Xing, Keji Qiang ze Guojia Qiang 科技兴则民族兴，科技强则国家强 [techno-scientific prosperity will make the nation prosper; techno-scientific strength will make the country strong],” November 2022.
20. First articulated in 1997 by Jiang Zemin, the "Two Centenary Goals" is a CPC slogan that vows to achieve a moderately prosperous society by the party's 100th anniversary in 2021 and build a socialist modernized country by the People’s Republic of China’s 100th anniversary in 2049. See the CST glossary entry Moderately Prosperous Society.
22. Chinese research and development expenditure has grown from 0.56% of its GDP in 1996 to 2.41% of its GDP in 2020. For more data, see UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “Research and development expenditure (% of GDP) - China,” World Bank, September 19, 2023.