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Why 2020 to 2030 might be China’s decade

By Samuel J. Samuel

Over the past few decades, China has experienced exponential growth over the past few, breaching the fences of a closed economy to evolve into a manufacturing and exporting hub of the world. Going by its huge manufacturing and export base, it is often referred to as the “world’s factory”. According to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI), China is the largest export economy in the world and the 33rd most complex economy. In 2019, in terms of GDP (PPP), the Chinese economy was measured at $25.27 trillion and it is expected to stay above six per cent in 2020 (China Press). It is, therefore, based on the aforementioned that the below listed factors could suggest that 2020 might be a decade for China’s further global economic expansion.

1) Tech Manufacturing: In October 2019, China’s manufacturing sector, which is the backbone of its economy, grew at an annual rate of 4.7 per cent. High-tech manufacturing centres on technology. High-tech manufacturing creates the technologies that are indispensable to the nations. As innovation and new technology increasingly drives this industry more than others in the manufacturing sector, the Chinese government has set up a $21 billion state-backed fund to boost its manufacturing industry. The new fund will be invested in corporations working on various areas of technology, especially next-generation information technology and electrical equipment. These are part of the 10 priority sectors highlighted by ‘Made-in- China 2025’, a government-led industrial initiative designed to dominate high-tech industries, including robotics, aerospace and computer chips, amidst the US-China “trade war”. The Trump administration has frowned at China’s initiative, criticising Xi Jinping for using the plan to give its country’s tech companies undue advantage over foreign rivals.

Being the world’s largest importer and consumer of semiconductors, China has made its ambition known to dominate the global technology market, such as artificial intelligence and 5G, which is expected to further build up demand for high-end chips. Currently, the country produces just 16 per cent of the semi-conductors, fuelling its tech boom. However, it has plans to produce 40 per cent of all semi-conductors it uses by 2020, and 70 per cent by 2025, an ambitious plan that is unconnected to the trade dispute with the US.

2) Scientific Research and Discovery: China’s new political leadership has placed science, technology and innovation at the frontrunner of the reform of its economic system (UNESCO Science Report). China has set itself the target of devoting 2.5 per cent of GDP to research and development (R&D) by 2020. Over the past two decades, the Chinese government has been massively investing in science. In 2000 the number of Chinese graduates in science and engineering courses increased from 359,000 to 1.65 million in 2014. In fact, a UNESCO report showed that nearly one in five of the world’s researchers resides in China. Between 2007 and 2013, the country saw a meteoric rise in research and development (R&D) and thereby overtook the U.S in terms of the number of researchers of any country in the world. The UNESCO Science Report asserted that China increased its global share of research spending by 42 per cent, a development which contributes marginally to global research expenditure (19.6 per cent), even above the global population (19.3 per cent). China’s researcher density has scaled-up by 11 per cent, near to the world average in 2013 (1 073) to 1 206 whole-time corresponding researchers per million inhabitants in 2016 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).

At the beginning of the last decade in 2011, Chinese engineers and scientists have recorded some unprecedented feats. In December 2013, China’s Chang’e 3 became the first robotic landing on the Moon. Chang’e 3 is a robotic lunar exploration mission operated by the China National Space Administration, incorporating a robotic lander and China’s first lunar rover. In September 2014, China’s State Council disclosed an Energy Development Strategy Action Plan to 2020 that fixes some strict targets for the development of modern infrastructure. James C. C. Chan won the 2018 IEEE Transportation Technologies Award for his contributions to the advancement of electric vehicle technologies. Likewise, in 2017, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China honoured Pan Jianwei for his work on quantum optical technology. Equally, toward reaching sustainable global food safety, Chinese researchers have found a growth-regulating transcription factor GRF4 that has the opposite effect of a growth-inhibiting protein called DELLA in crops. GRF4 and DELLA existed in a balance that regulated plant growth and nitrogen metabolism.

In 2017, the Chinese government spent US$279 billion just on research and development, a development that showed 70 per cent increase in comparison to its 2012 spending. In the same vein, in 2017, a report by the US National Science Foundation revealed that China had outshined the US in the number of science publications. Likewise, Nature Index rated China’s leading scientific institution, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as the institution with the most research outputs for the same year, ahead of America’s Harvard University and Germany’s Max Planck Society.

3) Number of Registered Patents: Innovation remains a fundamental source of national and global power. A country’s aptitude to develop new products and fashion new procedures or approaches of production automatically enables it to produce and create the desired goods needed by other countries. Hence innovation promotes technological advancement creates wealth in divers ways. China’s fast growing global influence is not unconnected to its innovation. One major way to measure innovation is through intellectual property (IP) protection in the form of patents. Patents secure exclusive rights to an invention, and thus offer insight into key areas of innovation. This feature evaluates the relationship between patents and innovation by exploring trends in patent applications.

In 2016, China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) processed 42.8  per cent of all patent applications in the world. With over 1.3 million total applications, China processed 121 per cent more applications than the U.S. China has been the main driver of global growth and the main source of growth in worldwide IP filings in 2018. In 2017, China became one of the top five US patent recipients for the first time, leaving behind US, Japan, South Korea and Germany. In 2018, China’s National Intellectual Property Administration received the highest number of patent applications—a record 1.54 million. The development amounted to the combined total of the IP offices of other countries ranked from 2nd to 11th place. According to World Intellectual Property Organisation (Oct 2019), China’s patent applications accounted for almost half of the global total.

The number of patents filed in China has sustained a high growth rate throughout much of the last two decades. A large percentage of this growth in patent applications stems from a flood of domestic applications, which corresponded with Xi Jinping’s ‘Made-in-China 2025’. The development aims to upgrade key domestic industries in order to compete with advanced economies in high-tech sectors. The result of this strategy can be seen by comparing corporate patents from a global perspective. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the two Chinese telecom giants, Huawei and ZTE, have been the top PCT applicants since 2015, followed by Intel, Mitsubishi, and Qualcomm.

4) Tech Skills: “For a country like China, with a population of more than 1.3 billion and a labor force of over 800 million, the issues of employment and human resources development are ones of important strategic significance,”—Wang Xiaochu, Vice Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, National People’s Congress & Former Vice Minister of Human Resources and Social Security. Likewise, in 2016, at the World Economic Forum, Fan Gang, Director of the National Economic Research Institute & Chairman of the China Reform Foundation, told the audience of some 250 business leaders that China must not only improve the overall abilities of its people so that they are equipped with knowledge and skills, but also the ability to adapt to new technologies.

In 2015, China’s State Council added Artificial Intelligence (AI) to its Internet Plus Initiative, a programme designed to modernise and transform traditional industries. In 2017, Chinese government unveiled the details of a three-stage road map designed to make China a world leader in AI by 2030. It is obvious that the Chinese government is determined to reshape the national skills development system in order to reduce the skills discrepancy, encourage waged and self-employment for young people and mobilise different ways of learning in order to cope with the need for highly skilled workers.

5) Vocational Skill Capacity One of the reasons that makes China a manufacturing superpower is its aggressive policy on Vocational Education and Training (VET) system. China has various laws that encourage VET.  The Vocational Educational Law of 1996, which mandates nine years of compulsory education, lays out a clear design for implementation of VET.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is mainly provided for in the Vocational Education Law of the People’s Republic of China adopted in 1996. It contains regulations on vocational school education at various levels and on vocational education in various forms. Also, Private Education Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China (adopted in 2002) establishes non-public schools that mainly provide vocational skills, including training for vocational qualifications. National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development of the People’s Republic of China (2010-2020): outlines development priorities in all forms of education including TVET. Decision of the State Council on Accelerating the Development of Modern Vocational Education (issued in 2014): the government should guide the transformation of a batch of general undergraduate education institutes towards applied technology higher education institutes, improve enterprise participation mechanisms, and require teachers to possess both teaching qualification and vocational qualification. Equally, Planning for Building Modern Vocational Education System (2014-2020) sets the strategic short-term and long-term goals of establishing a modern vocational education system, including improvement on the legal system and standardisation system of Chinese vocational education. In addition, as stated in the Vocational Education Law of the People’s Republic of China an enterprise shall, in light of its actual conditions, provide systematic vocational education and training for its own employees and for persons to be employed.

6) Military Mind It is not uncommon that China and the US are rivals in many ways, especially the quest for global dominant. As the two countries are in races to develop and commercialise deep learning and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, it appears that China is not taking it slow to surpass the US. China is on the fast track to increase its capacities in AI and autonomy to military weapons systems.

China has set a goal of 2020 as the date to achieve what its terms “mechanisation” and “informisation”. Quite what China means by this is latter term is unclear, but Beijing has been watching the developing role of information in warfare and seeking to adapt this to its own particular circumstances. Chinese weapons manufacturers already are selling armed drones with significant amounts of combat autonomy.” From ultra-long-range conventional ballistic missiles to fifth generation fighter jets, China’s progress and technical abilities are outstanding.

In April 2017, China launched its first domestically built aircraft carrier. China is developing a very long-range air-to-air missile designed specifically to strike at tanker and command and control aircraft that now orbit out of harm’s way. The development is known as “fifth generation fighter”. It incorporates stealth technology and has a supersonic cruising speed; it is highly integrated avionics.

It has been reported that China’s air-to-air missile developments by 2020 will likely force the US and its regional allies to re-examine not only their tactics, but also techniques, procedures and the direction of their own combat-aerospace development programmes.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS, London) Military Balance once reported that China has sold its armed UAVs to a number of countries, including Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Myanmar, among others. The US and Western arms exporters see China as a growing commercial threat. China is, however, willing to enter markets which many Western manufacturers, or their governments.

China is also trying to develop weaponry tailor-made to specifically for African countries, whose roads and infrastructural deficits would not be able to cope with many of the heavier models offered by others.

7) Innovation In June 2016, speaking at the national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, Chinese president Xi Jinping outlined his vision for China to become the leading global leader in innovation, especially in science and technology by 2030. According to him “Great scientific and technological capacity is a must for China to be strong and for people’s lives to improve. China and, even humankind, won’t do without innovation nor will it do if the innovation is carried out slowly.”

In agriculture, Crop science is an essential component of agricultural science and also the key to ensuring world food security, stimulating sustainable utilisation of agricultural resources, and effectively protecting agricultural environments. Statistics has shown that China now produces 25 per cent of the world’s food, feeding about 22 per cent of the world’s population with nine per cent of the world’s arable land, and has completed the transition from a food-aid recipient country to a food-aid donor.

Furthermore, China is poised not just to lead in autonomous vehicles but to dominate this emerging global market in the decades ahead. According to an annual report on the nation’s innovation economy by the South China Morning Post, China is likely to emerge as the world’s largest market for autonomous vehicles and mobility services, worth more than $500 billion by 2030.

  • To be concluded
  • Placing urban finances on a more sustainable footing, while creating financial discipline for local governments
  • Reforming urban planning and design
  • Managing environmental pressures
  • Improving local governance

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