Sci-tech innovation powers China’s high-quality development

By ZHAO QI / 06-27-2024 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

A high-tech innovative chip Photo: TUCHONG

In recent years, China’s high-quality economic development has garnered wide attention in the international community. Many analysts attribute this sustained growth to advancements in science and technology. Centering on the current landscape and future trends of sci-tech innovation in China, as well as its role in the country’s high-quality economic development, CSST recently interviewed Prem Ramburuth, an emeritus professor of international business at the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Daniel J. Herbst, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Arizona in the United States. 

Enormous passion for innovation

According to Ramburuth, China is a country which over the last decade has embraced innovation with unprecedented passion. The country has transformed itself from a laggard in innovation and technology to a nation with sophisticated, complex, and often world-leading innovation capabilities. This transformation has occurred remarkably quickly, especially when compared to global peers. 

“China’s technological prowess has consistently surprised to the upside, whether in terms of electric vehicles, new energy, artificial intelligence, space exploration or most recently, semiconductors,” Ramburuth said. The results of this change can be seen in China’s rapid ascent up the Global Innovation Index of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), from 43rd in 2010 to 12th most recently, he added. 

In terms of relative performance, Ramburuth remarked that China continues to narrow the gap with Japan, Canada, and European countries including Italy and Spain, noting that it is the only middle-income nation in the Global Innovation Index’s top 30. 

“This innovative zeal is revealed through the international competitiveness of Chinese products and technologies. The latest sign of this are the China-made electric vehicles making rapid inroads in markets across much of the globe,” Ramburuth said. The scale of China’s activities is also visible in its share of new global patents. According to WIPO data, China has surpassed the US in terms of patents secured since 2015.

“China is now the innovation leader across a wide range of advanced technologies as eclectic as machine tools, nanotechnology, surface technologies, and digital communications,” Ramburuth asserted. 

Reflective global implications

Herbst told CSST that China’s economic growth has reflective implications for the global economy. As the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer, China is pivotal in global supply chains, technology transfer, and trade networks. The country’s vast market and unlimited development opportunities provide space for emerging business models. Among them, digital innovation is the main driving force of China’s economic growth and promotes the high-tech transformation of its traditional manufacturing industries. 

“China’s emphasis on industries such as artificial intelligence, e-commerce, electric vehicles, and renewable energy can reshape the industrial structure. While creating job opportunities, the transformation has also promoted a significant improvement in the quality of people’s lives,” Herbst said.

“Over the past decade, China accounted for less than 1% of global e-commerce transactions. Today, China has the largest e-commerce market in the world,” Herbst continued. The rapid rise of e-commerce platforms, digital payment systems, and online services has significantly accelerated the digital transformation of traditional retail and service industries. This shift has streamlined supply chains, eliminated inefficient production models, and enhanced overall production efficiency.

“Today, China’s economy has shifted to a service-oriented economy, and the integration of technology-led innovation within multiple industries such as healthcare and education has created conditions for the formation of a diversified economic landscape,” Herbst emphasized.