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Xi's theory offers path to innovation

Growth: Greater emphasis on talent urged

By XU WEI in Beijing and SHI RUIPENG in Nanning | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-26 23:36
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As the curtain is raised for China's most important annual political gathering next week, a key focus of deliberations among legislators and political advisers is how the nation can employ new productive forces to reinvigorate the world's second-largest economy.

The nation's top leadership has outlined plans to use new productive forces to underpin high-quality development, as policymakers seek to lift market expectations and strengthen the nation's self-reliance in science and technology amid external uncertainties.

President Xi Jinping, who first proposed the term in September, expounded on the theory of new productive forces on Jan 31 while presiding over a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the Party's core leadership.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, underlined the key role of new productive forces in underpinning China's high-quality development, stressing that sci-tech innovation is the core element for developing new productive forces.

The theory has struck a chord with the nation's legislators and political advisers as they are set to convene in Beijing next week for the upcoming annual sessions of the nation's top legislative and political advisory bodies.

Pan Jiaofeng, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institutes of Science and Development and a deputy to the National People's Congress, said the development of new productive forces will present key opportunities to transform traditional sectors and spur the growth of emerging industries.

Xi's latest theory will serve as a short-term and long-term guideline for China to beef up innovation in science and technology and various sectors, he said.

Pan said the nation must look to better energize its businesses in their innovation drive, as "only businesses can serve as the link between innovation and industrial chains".

Pan said he will make several suggestions at the NPC this year on the development of new productive forces, especially on how the nation can further optimize its policies to boost innovation.

He explained that China must strengthen the efficiency of its investment in innovation to boost its self-reliance in science and technology.

Official statistics showed that the nation spent 3.08 trillion yuan ($428 billion), or 2.54 percent of its GDP, on research and development in 2022, up 10.1 percent year-on-year.

Pan said while there is limited room for China to further bolster its R&D intensity — the ratio of R&D to GDP — there is still much room to ensure the funding can be used more effectively, to bolster its self-reliance.

Xu Ling, vice-president of Guangdong Polytechnic Normal University and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the nation must reinforce its new labor forces to cater to the development of new productive forces.

She said that increasing the skills of China's workforce to ensure that it has greater expertise in digital technologies is a must as new business models keep emerging.

Xu said she will make a proposal to the CPPCC National Committee this year that the nation should launch special initiatives to improve the digital expertise of teachers, both in vocational education institutions and colleges.

"Only by improving the digital expertise of teachers can we ensure that their students can serve as the pillar for the nation's new productive forces," she said.

She also highlighted the need for policymakers to roll out more incentives so that more high-quality college graduates can choose manufacturing businesses as their employers.

China's sci-tech innovation and the building up of its manufacturing sector's competitiveness have long been emphasized by the president as he joined national legislators and political advisers in their annual deliberations.

Xi told his fellow NPC deputies from Jiangsu province last year that sci-tech self-reliance is the key for China to build itself into a modern socialist country in all respects.

He highlighted the need to focus on the real economy in pursuing growth, saying that China must step up the reengineering of its industrial foundations and research projects on major technologies and equipment.

Jiang Weidong, an NPC deputy and founder of Wuzheng Group, said the president's emphasis on the development of new productive forces and high-quality development has bolstered the confidence of private businesses.

The company, a manufacturer of motor tricycles and other agricultural vehicles in Shandong province, will further scale up investment in high-end equipment to offer digital and smart solutions.

Jiang said businesses must assume their due responsibilities and scale up their innovation drive to contribute to the nation's self-reliance efforts.

Zhou Yingfeng, an NPC deputy and an engineer with Guangxi Liugong Machinery Co, a machinery manufacturer based in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said the strategy laid out by Xi to upgrade China's manufacturing sector resonated strongly with him.

"The president has rightly pointed out that talent is the key factor for the upgrading of the manufacturing sector. We need greater emphasis from relevant authorities to train professionals in the sector, both in schools and enterprises," he said.

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