Global Times: Xi stresses development of new productive forces, signaling greater focus on sci-tech innovation

BEIJING, Feb. 6, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has called for efforts to accelerate the development of new productive forces and firmly promote high-quality development, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday, further highlighting China’s heightened focus on new growth drivers based on scientific and technological (sci-tech) breakthroughs and innovation.

The growing emphasis China’s top leader has placed on developing new productive forces signals that even more resources will be directed toward making sci-tech breakthroughs in critical areas, boosting China’s sci-tech self-reliance and self-strengthening, and spurring high-quality development – a top priority for China’s policymaking, experts said.

Coming at a critical time for the Chinese economy, which is undergoing a profound transformation, developing new productive forces is China’s clear answer for tackling those challenges and ensuring long-term sound development, experts noted.

Growing emphasis

While presiding over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Xi stressed that high-quality development is an unyielding principle in the new era, according to Xinhua.

“Developing new productive forces is the intrinsic requirement and an important focus of promoting high-quality development, and it’s necessary to continue to well leverage innovation to speed up the development of new productive forces,” Xi said.

The phrase “new productive forces” has become a buzzword recently. First put forward by Xi during his inspection tour in September 2023 to northeast China, it refers to a new form of productive forces derived from continuous sci-tech breakthroughs and innovation that drive strategic emerging industries and future industries in a more intelligent information era, according to Xinhua.

Underscoring its growing importance, various top meetings have put emphasis on developing new productive forces. The Central Economic Work Conference in December 2023, a top meeting that sets economic priorities for 2024, also pledged to promote industrial innovation through technological innovation, especially by using ground-breaking and cutting-edge technologies to foster new industries, new models and growth drivers, and develop new productive forces.

It is also significant that developing new productive forces was a focus of the first group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in 2024. The previous group study session was held in November 2023 and focused on foreign-related legal system development.

These all highlighted the growing emphasis China’s top leadership put on developing new productive forces, which portends greater efforts and policy support for sci-tech innovation in 2024 and beyond, according to experts.

“Sci-tech innovation can give birth to new industries, new business models, and new kinetic energy, and is the core element of developing new productive forces,” Wang Peng, an associate researcher from the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that China has already taken a slew of policy measures to support the development of new productive forces.

“Looking forward to the future, with the continuous deepening of scientific and technological innovation and the continuous advancement of industrial transformation and upgrading, new productive forces will play a more important role in the Chinese economy,” Wang said, adding that the Chinese government will continue to strengthen policy guidance and support to create a better environment and conditions for the development of new productive forces.

Steady progress

Various Chinese government departments have already highlighted China’s steady progress in sci-tech breakthroughs and innovation and pledged to step up efforts to accelerate the development of new productive forces.

At a news conference on Thursday, Wang Dongwei, vice minister of finance, said that in recent years, finance departments of all levels have prioritized fiscal spending in sci-tech fields. Between 2018 and 2023, national fiscal expenditure in sci-tech grew from 832.7 billion yuan ($115.94 billion) to about 1.06 trillion yuan, with an annual growth rate of 6.4 percent on average.

With fiscal and other policy support, “a number of innovative achievements have emerged in fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum technology, and bio-manufacturing,” said Wang Dongwei, vowing to better support innovation in key areas such as new generation of information technology and integrated circuits and help tackle difficulties in areas such as basic products, core technologies and key software.

Various indicators have also shown that China has become a top innovation powerhouse globally. Between 2020 and 2022, China’s total social expenditure in research and development jumped from 2.44 trillion yuan to 3.08 trillion yuan, ranking second in the world for many consecutive years. In 2022, China contributed nearly one-third of the academic papers published in the most influential international journals, surpassing the US for the first time to secure the world’s leading position.

Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, said that while China has become a world leader in sci-tech innovation, China’s pursuit of high-quality development and the arrival of a new technological revolution means that China must also continue to step up innovation to stay ahead.

“We must rise up to the competitions in the new sci-tech revolution and we must aim at strategic emerging industries and future industries,” Cong told the Global Times on Thursday, noting the importance of developing new productive forces in China’s high-quality development.

Highlighting the great contribution made by new productive forces to economic growth, China’s world-leading 5G industry is estimated to have directly driven a total economic output of 1.86 trillion yuan in 2023, an increase of 29 percent from that of 2022, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

As China’s economic development faces challenges arising from its internal economic transition, developing new productive forces has also become an urgent matter, in order to both tackle risks and challenges and to ensure long-term high-quality development, experts said.

“The weak global economy has impacted traditional export markets, and the Chinese economy needs to find new growth drivers. The development of new productive forces can cultivate new economic growth drivers and competitive advantages, and provide new impetus for the Chinese economy,” Wang said.

Moreover, the development of new productive forces, especially the strengthening of sci-tech innovation, can reduce reliance on external technologies and markets and enhance the independence and security of China’s economy, Wang added.

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