China Goes for Innovation in Science and Technology

The March 2024 “Two Sessions” of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, and its advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, exhibited a strong sense of confidence in the country’s ability to complete its policy of “modernization” in spite of all the obstacles that are being thrown up against it by the United States and other Western countries.

On the opening day of the conference, Prime Minister Li Qiang read the Government Work Report, which sums up the past year and lays out the framework for the year to come. The targets for 2024 include achieving a growth rate of around 5%, creating 12 million new jobs, and increasing the Consumer Price Index by circa 3%.

A new watch word of the deliberations was the concept of creating “new high-quality productive forces”. This notion involves lifting the economy to a new platform of development by raising the level of technology throughout. In order to fund the endeavor, the government will provide “ultra-long bonds” for targeted funding of appropriate high-technology projects, as well as other “special purpose bonds” for the same purpose. This is not some new form of “quantitative easing”, but rather a concerted effort to promote science and technology innovation, integrated urban-rural development, high-quality population development, and food and energy security. The focus here is to encourage industry as well as consumers to replace worn and aging equipment or appliances in order to upgrade the very fabric of China’s industry.

It was also announced that government funds for Research & Development would increase this year by 10%, a significant jump from previous years. In addition, local and provincial governments as well as enterprises, both state-owned and privately owned, are encouraged to increase their R&D spending. This aims to allow the production domestically of those high-tech goods which the West is trying to prevent China from purchasing abroad.

While Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who gave a press conference on the sidelines of the Two Sessions on March 6, made clear that China would adhere to the agreements made at last year’s summit between President Xi and President Biden, he also noted that the U.S. continued to exert pressure “to suppress China” , lengthening its sanctions list, and “reaching bewildering levels of unfathomable absurdity”.

Various speakers at the Congress, including Wang, indicated that China welcomed foreign investment, and that it was instituting the necessary reforms to create a “level playing field” for all participants, domestic as well as foreign. New areas will be opened up for investment by foreign companies in the service and financial industries.

On foreign policy, the Chinese leadership intends to continue to organize for negotiated settlements in both Ukraine and Gaza.

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