Fully understand the importance and urgency of enhancing independent innovation capability and innovative country building

Since the reform and opening up, China has become the beneficiary of globalization. An important factor is that its products have the advantage of low cost in the international market. With the change of China’s development stage, development philosophy, and development policy, the foundation of this low-cost advantage is changing, which is highlighted in three aspects. First, with the improvement of the stage of economic development in China, the rural surplus labor force has been transformed from the almost unlimited supply in the past to the limited surplus, and the advantages of low-cost labor force have begun being gradually weakened. Second, with the continuous deepening in the reform of China’s resource price and in environmental protection efforts, the low-cost advantages of resources and the environment are also gradually weakened. Third, with the continuous improvement of the development level in China, the space for imitating, studying, and using advanced technologies and experiences in other countries is becoming smaller and smaller, and the low-cost applicable technological advantages determined by the status of backward countries are gradually weakened. Under such circumstances, in order to maintain the momentum of sustained economic growth and to successfully cope with the severe challenges of resources and the environment, the key is to speed up the pace of building an innovative country, raise the productivity of technological innovation through improvements in innovation capability and economic growth, and gradually play a leading role in achieving the transformation and upgrading competitive advantages. Efforts should be made to develop advanced manufacturing and modern service industries, enhance the international competitiveness of high value-added industries, and enhance the position of Chinese industries in the global industrial chain. While extensively applying new and high-level technologies to transform traditional industries, efforts should be made to cultivate new economic growth points and accelerate the development of strategic emerging areas, such as new energy, energy saving and environmental protection, new materials, new generation of information technology, and bioengineering.

At present, China’s economic construction is in an important historic period in which GDP per capita is increasing from 1,000 US dollars to 3,000 US dollars. The marginal contribution of traditional factors of production such as capital, land, and labor to the growth of the economy shows a decreasing trend. However, institutional innovation, innovation in economic development patterns, and innovation in science and technology will become the fundamental driving force for economic and social development. China’s resource endowment also decided that it is impossible to go the old way of consuming energy and resources in exchange for industrialization. To achieve sustainable economic and social development, China should make independent innovation as a basic means of improving the efficiency of resource utilization, enhancing the overall economic efficiency, and effectively protecting the environment.

Since the reform and opening up, with the sustained and steady economic development of China, the level of science and technology and the capability of independent innovation in science and technology have greatly increased, but the overall situation is still relatively backward. According to statistics, China’s capability of scientific and technological innovation ranks 28th among 49 major countries in the world. This is at a lower-middle level, the rate of self-sufficiency of key technologies is low, and the degree of foreign technology dependence is above 50%. Although China is a large manufacturing country, and its industrial added value ranks fourth in the world, most of the manufacturing enterprises lack core technologies with independent intellectual property rights and are often controlled by others in the international competition. Although we have introduced a large amount of foreign advanced technology and management experience, China still relies mainly on cheap labor and resource consumption to win a competitive advantage due to insufficient digestion and absorption and innovation. China is still at a low position in the international division of labor. Driven by the world’s new scientific and technological revolution, the role of knowledge in current economic and social development has become increasingly prominent. The growth of the national wealth and the improvement of human life depend increasingly on the accumulation and innovation of knowledge. Scientific and technological competition has become the focus of competition in the international comprehensive national strength. In today’s era, whoever holds the edge in knowledge and technological innovation can grasp the initiative in development. All countries in the world, especially the developed ones, regard promoting scientific and technological progress and innovation as their national strategy by greatly increasing investment in science and technology, accelerating the development of science and technology, emphasizing basic research, focusing on developing strategic high-level technology and its industries, and accelerating the conversion of scientific and technological achievements to real productive forces, so as to conducive to provide a lasting driving force for economic and social development and gain the initiative in international economic and technological competition. In the face of the general trend of world scientific and technological development and of the increasingly fierce international competition, China should place science and technology in a primary strategic position and fully recognize the importance and urgency of enhancing the capability of independent innovation and building an innovative country, and work hard to catch up and to seize the initiative to win in development.

At present, China is still in the primary stage of socialism with low level of economic and social development and relatively insufficiency in per capita resources. Further development still faces some prominent problems and contradictions. From the perspective of strategic development, China should take a new path to industrialization. It should readjust its economic structure; change the mode of economic growth; ease the bottleneck constraints on energy, resources, and the environment; speed up industrial upgrading and optimization; promote population health and ensure public safety; and safeguard national security and strategic interests. It is more immediate and necessary for China to achieve a solid scientific foundation and strong technical support than ever before.

As early as the Ninth Five-Year Plan, the Central Committee of Communist Party of China has explicitly proposed that the economic growth mode should be changed from extensive to intensive. However, due to lack of independent innovation capability in technology, the key equipment and core technologies of China’s major industries are still basically dependent on imports. The resources and environment generated by economic growth are more costly and the sustainable economic development is affected. At present, the lack of capability for independent innovation has become the major contradiction affecting the competitiveness of China’s industry and has also become one of the most important factors that restrict the sustainable economic growth of China. All of these show that the effective promotion of independent innovation and the acceleration of the construction of an innovative nation have become the choice that China must face in its economic and social development. How to break through the bottleneck of independent innovation and upgrade the industrial structure has become the key issue that already affected the transformation of China’s economic development mode and sustainable development.

The state pointed out in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan that the transformation of the mode of economic growth is still one of the core contents of China’s economic development and stressed that technological innovation and technological progress are the keys to transforming the mode of economic growth. On December 6, 2004, the Central Economic Work Conference proposed that improving the capability of independent innovation is the key link in promoting economic restructuring. The meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China held on July 25, 2005 also stressed the importance of using independent innovation as a focal point for formulating the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. “The Proposal of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan Formulated by the Central Committee of Communist Party of China” issued in early 2006 even mentioned the concern of independent innovation in unprecedented heights. In March 2006, the National Science and Technology Conference held a clear and definite goal of “making our country more independent and building an innovative nation”. The 17th National Congress of Communist Party of China proposed transforming the mode of economic development, establishing a national independent innovation system, and making independent innovation a national development strategy.

General Secretary Hu Jintao repeatedly emphasized that it is necessary to persistently put the promotion of independent innovation in a prominent position in all scientific and technological work, vigorously enhance the capability of scientific and technological innovation, vigorously enhance its core competitiveness, and take a path of scientific and technological innovation with Chinese characteristics in practice. The Fifth Plenary Session of the 16th Central Committee of Communist Party of China pointed out to thoroughly implement the strategy of rejuvenating the country through science and education and strengthening the nation by talented people, enhance the capability of independent innovation as a strategic starting point for the development of science and technology, and as the central aspect of adjusting the industrial structure and transforming the mode of growth, and improve increasingly the ability to integrate innovation and the ability to introduce, digest, absorb, and re-innovate. It also pointed out the establishment of a technological innovation system that takes the enterprise as the main body, the market as the guide, combined with production, education, and research to create a basic institutional framework for independent innovation. The report of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China made it clear that “enhancing the capability of independent innovation and building an innovative country” is “the core of the national development strategy and the key to enhancing the overall national strength” and placed it on the first of eight focus in promoting the sound and rapid development of the national economy. China must adhere to the path of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics and implement the enhancement of the capability of independent innovation in all aspects of the modernization construction.

To build an innovative country, China must adhere to the guidelines of “making independent innovation, focusing on leapfrogging, supporting development, and leading the future”, so as to build and create a strong capability of primitive innovation and seize the initiative opportunities in scientific and technological revolution. China must build the core competence of key technologies to occupy the initiative in the increasingly fierce competition in the international economy and technology. It must form a strong system of integrated innovation and form the introduction of digestion, absorption, and re-innovation ability to effectively absorb and utilize international innovative resources in an open environment. China must recognize the natural environment and its basic national conditions in a scientific and systemic manner, and achieve the harmonious development of man and nature and the sustainable development of society. It must establish an efficient and smooth technology transfer mechanism and an efficient mechanism for dissemination of scientific knowledge so that the economic and social benefits resulting from scientific and technological innovation can benefit all the people. China must build and form an innovative legal and institutional system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, an advanced innovative culture, a good social environment for innovation and entrepreneurship, an innovative system full of vigor and vitality, and a national education system so that innovative wisdom can flourish, and a large number of innovative talents can emerge to form large independent innovation capability to support China’s economic and social development, and achieve the goal of becoming an innovative country by 2020.

The key to building an innovative country is to enhance the capability of independent innovation as a strategic starting point for the development of science and technology, take the path of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics, and promote the leap-forward development of science and technology; and to enhance the capability of independent innovation as the basis for adjusting industrial structure, transforming growth mode, and building a resource-saving and environment-friendly society so as to promote the rapid and sound development of the national economy. At the same time, it is necessary to make the enhancement of the capability of independent innovation a national strategy through all aspects of modernization in order to stimulate the innovation spirit of the entire nation; foster high-level innovative talents; create new institutional mechanisms that are conducive to independent innovation; vigorously promote theoretical innovation, systemic innovation, and technological innovation; and constantly consolidate and develop the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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