China increases sci-tech self-reliance with establishment of new central commission

Photo: VCG

China has announced the establishment of a central commission that will be responsible for reviewing grand national strategies for scientific and technological development, one of the most powerful changes to the country’s innovation system in decades and paving the way for the rollout of several policies to achieve core technological breakthroughs, experts said.

The creation of the commission, which is part of a series of recently announced institutional reforms, is also seen by many as a response to a stepped-up crackdown by Western countries targeting China’s tech companies, from Huawei to TikTok, as the world’s second-largest economy goes out of its way to break Western countries’ scientific blockade in pursuit of “self-reliance” in the technology sector.

The new commission, called the Central Science and Technology Commission, will strengthen the CPC Central Committee’s centralized and unified leadership over science and technology work, according to a plan released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Party-State Reform. institutions, Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.

Its functions include promoting the construction of a national innovation system and structural scientific and technological reforms, studying and considering important strategies, plans and policies for the country’s sci-tech development, and coordinating efforts to solve major issues of strategic, guiding and fundamental importance . in the sci-tech sector.

It will also coordinate the deployment of strategic science and technology forces such as national laboratories, the plan said.

Responsibility for the new commission’s working body is handled by the restructured Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). A number of management groups related to science and technology have been scrapped.

Technological breakthroughs

According to experts, the establishment of the commission signals another boost to the strategic position of science and technology in China, after the country designated science and technology as primary productive forces, a theory put forward by Deng Xiaoping in 1988.

It not only reflects the Chinese government’s strategic emphasis on science and technology, but will also greatly improve decision-making and execution efficiency, which will play a key role in pushing China’s key scientific and technological innovations in the coming days, experts said.

Ma Jihua, founder of Beijing DARUI Management Consulting Co and a veteran tech observer, told the Global Times on Friday that there were two major problems with MOST’s oversight of the science sector in the past. “First, they had too much routine work to take care of. Second, their administrative level was not high enough to directly coordinate with various ministries and companies,” Ma said.

A consequence of this is that, although China already launched the national strategy for innovation-driven development in 2016, and since then a large amount has been pushed into scientific research, there has not been enough of a shift from research to concrete industry. productivity, Tian Yun, a macroeconomic observer, told the Global Times on Friday.

China’s research and development spending rose 10.4 percent in 2022 to 3.1 trillion yuan ($448 billion), securing double-digit growth for seven straight years, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed in January.

Experts also predicted that the new commission could soon make policy implementations to push research and application of core technologies such as chip production, new energy, new materials and artificial intelligence.

“The Central Science and Technology Commission is likely to plan to develop the Chinese chip industry by rolling out more specific measures, such as how to allocate political resources and financial funds to boost the industry. They could also send a team to implement relevant work,” Tian said .

Ma also said the commission will come up with more specific plans on the development of new infrastructure, detailed assessment indicators, development goals, responsible persons and other matters.

Photo taken on Sept. 22, 2022 shows an intelligent manufacturing base of Great Wall Motors (GWM) in Yongchuan District of Chongqing, southwest China.  Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on Sept. 22, 2022 shows an intelligent manufacturing base of Great Wall Motors (GWM) in Yongchuan District of Chongqing, southwest China. Photo: Xinhua

Alleviation of external pressure

At the same time, the establishment of a top-level commission to oversee China’s science and technology sector is also a move seen by experts as China’s response and solution to a hardening global environment in which Chinese technology companies are experiencing increasingly strict repression and restrictions from certain Western countries.

The latest target of this crackdown is TikTok, which is facing another wave of crackdowns from the West.

Recently, the Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok from the United States unless the app’s Chinese owners agree to spin off their shares. The UK government has also banned the app from government phones due to so-called security concerns, according to a report by Sky News.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a press conference on Friday that China has consistently insisted that data security issues should not become a tool for certain countries to generalize national security concepts, abuse national power and unjustifiably suppress other countries’ enterprises.

Prior to the TikTok incident, the US government had also rolled out many measures against China’s technological progress, such as issuing semiconductor-related export controls on China and enticing global chip giants to decouple China’s supply chains.

Experts said the new commission will gear the country to better deal with external crackdowns like those mentioned above, as the commission will provide clearer, more timely and appropriate instructions on how to deal with external sanctions.

“When China faces major scientific and technological security problems, the Central Science and Technology Commission can listen to reports and proposals from various sides, formulate a response strategy as soon as possible and call on relevant departments to implement them,” Ma said, adding. such a mechanism would “reduce the cost of communication and increase the speed of response.”

Chen Jia, a veteran economic observer, also told the Global Times on Friday that at a time when the Biden administration is imposing increasingly tough sanctions on China’s science and technology sector, China must increase the strength of countermeasures in its policy design at the top level as well as providing a comprehensive service system to assist technology companies tapping into overseas markets.

He also said that China could join with other developing countries to jointly oppose the rogue hegemonic behavior of certain countries to protect the interests of their technology companies.

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