China sees stronger momentum for scientific and technological innovation over past five years

China has improved its innovation system and environment and greatly enhanced its innovation ability during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), with sci-tech innovation playing an increasingly prominent role in supporting and guiding the country’s efforts to foster a new development pattern and promote high-quality development.

A Mars probe is launched on a Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, July 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

Over the past five years, the contribution made by technological advances to economic growth increased from 55.3 percent to 59.5 percent in the country.

China has given higher priority to basic research and its applications and made technological breakthroughs in key and core areas. Its research and development spending reached 2.21 trillion yuan ($341.5 billion) last year, a significant increase from 1.42 trillion yuan in 2015. Of the total R&D budget last year, 133.6 billion yuan was used for basic research, double the figure of 2015.

A number of achievements that have impressed the world have emerged in fields such as iron-based superconductivity, quantum communication, stem cell technology, and synthetic biology.

Last year, Chinese scientists established a quantum computer prototype named “Jiuzhang,” which can perform a calculation in 200 seconds with Gaussian boson sampling (GBS), a classical simulation algorithm. A similar calculation would take 600 million years on the world’s current classical supercomputers. The breakthrough shows that China has realized “quantum supremacy”, making the country the second in the world to achieve the feat.

After travelling about 475 million km in space, China’s first Mars exploration mission Tianwen-1 entered the orbit of the Red Planet on Feb. 10, 2021, and will carry out orbiting, landing and roving in one mission as planned.

The Chang’e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, 2019, while the return capsule of the Chang’e-5 lunar probe landed in Siziwang Banner, north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on Dec. 17, 2020, bringing back the country’s first samples collected from the moon.

China also launched the last BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) satellite, marking the completion of a global navigation constellation. It also launched the Dark Matter Particle Explorer Wukong and quantum science satellite Mozi. The country’s C919 passenger aircraft also made its maiden flight.

Photo taken on Jan. 11, 2020 shows China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) under maintenance in southwest China’s Guizhou Province. (Xinhua/Liu Xu)

China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, has discovered 279 pulsars since it started operation in September 2016.

China’s deep-sea manned submersible Fendouzhe, or Striver, set a national record by diving to a depth of 10,909 meters in the Mariana Trench on Nov. 10, 2020.

Over the past five years, China has deepened the integration of science and technology with overall economic and social development and made fresh progress in supporting and leading high-quality development.

The country has made breakthroughs in the field of information and communication technologies, including 5G, optoelectronics, and integrated circuits, enhancing its independent innovation capacity. China has put 5G into commercial use, setting up 718,000 5G base stations, which make up about 70 percent of the global total.

During this period, Chinese enterprises have continued to play a dominant role in the development of technological innovation. In 2019, enterprises’ expenditure on R&D hit 1.69 trillion yuan, accounting for 76.4 percent of the total. Last year, 246,000 Chinese companies held valid invention patents, while high-tech enterprises held 922,000 valid invention patents.

Photo taken on Sept. 5, 2020 shows a view of the 5G communication services exhibition area of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Zhang Chenlin)

Over the past five years, China has further reformed the management system for science and technology to tap into potential for innovation among researchers.

“Significant progress has been made in reform in key areas, while a complete implementation system integrating laws, policies, measures and action has been established,” said Wang Zhigang, minister of science and technology.

Wang added that the potential of science and technology as the primary forces of production has been further unleashed, and so has that of innovation as the primary driving force, and talent as the primary resource.

During this period, China has enhanced its capability in the transfer and commercialization of scientific and technological achievements. In 2019, the total value of contracted technology transactions in more than 1,000 technology trading markets in China exceeded 2 trillion yuan for the first time, 3.5 times that of 2012.

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