From laggard to frontrunner: China on road to becoming global innovation powerhouse

As a long-time China watcher, Do said Vietnamese authority saluted substantial achievements of the 19th National Congress of the CPC in injecting new vigor into socialist cause.
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China must become an innovative country because this is not only an integral part of its goal of national rejuvenation, but also something necessitated by current circumstances. 

Asked to name the hottest buzzword in China these days, many people will blurt out “innovation.”

Indeed, innovation is what has often been described as a matter of life and death for the business world. You either innovate your business or risk being knocked out.

From the perspective of national prowess or competency, it is more or less the same.

Wu Li is one of those experts who believe that it is imperative China becomes an innovative nation. He is a professor and deputy director of the Institute of Contemporary China Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The evolution of China from a laggard playing catch-up to a frontrunner leading the latest wave of data-driven industrialization is remarkable as well as inevitable, Wu told a roundtable while attending the recent Seventh World Forum on China Studies in Shanghai.

China must become an innovative country because this is not only an integral part of its goal of national rejuvenation, but also something necessitated by current circumstances, in particular declining resources and other environmental constraints.

Wu explained that China could not afford to continue to grow its economy at the expense of polluting the soil, air and water, therefore an innovative growth model is needed.

Three advantages

In his view, China has at least three advantages in the big game of innovation.

The market is huge. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, consumer demand is big enough for emerging technologies to carve a niche.

Add to that the sheer amount of competition and segmentation in the market.

Most importantly, decades of interplay with market forces have enabled the government to know when is the time to intervene and when to let the market be in the driver’s seat, he said.

Wu added that all the three attributes are conducive to China’s resolve to develop itself into an innovation-oriented country.

At the same time, tolerance of risk and failure has to increase for an innovation-friendly culture to thrive.

Wu’s analysis of the need for innovation is echoed by Vietnamese scholar Do Tien Sam.

As former director of the Institute of China Studies at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, professor Do also pointed out that a ruling party steeped in the tradition of innovation is essential for the undertaking of building an innovative country.

As someone whose work involves perusing major documents released by the Communist Party of China, Do credited the 19th National Congress of the CPC for an array of positive developments and theoretical innovations.

Keeping momentum

He pointed, among other things, to President Xi Jinping’s thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, saying that it laid out new goals for the Party to strive for.

According to Do, Vietnam now faces the same challenge as China in keeping the momentum of its reform.

As a long-time China watcher, Do said Vietnamese authority heartily saluted the substantial achievements of the 19th National Congress of the CPC in injecting new vigor into the socialist cause.

“Since China and Vietnam have many things in common, there is plenty of room for them to cooperate in areas including Party-building, establishment of the rule of law, economic reform and so on,” he said.

Globalization has its winners and losers, and many explanations have been attempted as to why China is one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization.

For Professor Zhang Weiwei, director of China Institute at Fudan University, the answer lies in China’s approach to globalization: To be part of it, yet firmly on its own terms.

As he sees it, this doctrine is hugely different from the belief of some Western politicians poised to interpret globalization as a wholesale transformation of individual countries’ economic, political and social systems.

People-oriented philosophy

In his view, the fact that the lion’s share of globalization’s gains is pocketed by multinationals rather than ordinary citizens in the West contrasts sharply with China’s people-oriented philosophy on globalization.

Chinese policymakers have decided that globalization is an economic process only, devoid of the Western ideas of laissez-faire market fundamentalism, privatization or democratization.

This is why China has worked globalization so well to its benefit, and also why Chinese people rarely cry foul at a time of widespread backlashes against globalization, Zhang said.

As China increasingly emerges on the world stage, it is now capable of supplying ideas and solutions to aid global governance.

Solutions range from concrete initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to proposals such as adopting consultative democracy in world affairs.

These new conceptual and methodological frameworks will have far-reaching implications, said Zhang.


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