China gathers stronger momentum for innovation in past 5 years

About a thousand drones give performances to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Harbin Institute of Technology, June 2020. (Photo by Geng Hongjie/People's Daily Online)

During the 13th Five Year Plan period (2016-2020), the contribution of technological advances to economic growth increased from 55.3 percent to 59.5 percent in China.


The country has risen to the 14th place among 131 economies worldwide on the Global Innovation Index (GII), a benchmark innovation ranking.


As significant breakthroughs have been continuously made in science and technology, innovation is becoming the primary driving force behind China’s development.


Although it was already late at night, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Key Laboratory of Microscale Magnetic Resonance, located in the University of Science and Technology of China, was still ablaze with lights.


Du Jiangfeng, head of the lab as well as academician with the CAS, and his colleagues were sitting around a table and carefully discussing and analyzing the experimental data gathered during the day.


In fact, such a scene could often be seen in the lab.


For over four years, the lab has closely followed trends at the frontiers of science and technology and achieved a lot of global firsts.


“In the past, we could only see cells on the millimeter level through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we can now see cancer cells smaller than 10 nanometers,” said Du.


The lab’s cell imaging techniques have reached the world leading level and are expected to be applied in the early diagnosis of cancer, according to Du.


Since the 13th Five Year Plan period, China has continuously enhanced its support for basic research and paid great attention to original innovations.


A batch of major innovative results have emerged, such as the quantum anomalous Hall effect, iron-based high-temperature superconductors, and monkey clones, and such innovations have allowed China to catch up with other scientific powerhouses or even lead in certain frontier fields.


Both the number of international scientific papers published by Chinese researchers and that of the most-cited papers of China ranked second in the world.


Meanwhile, the country ranked number one in the world in terms of granted invention patents.


Basic research is increasingly showing its fundamental role in science and technology advances.


On January 4, 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, came to Chongqing BOE Optoelectronics Technology Co., Ltd. in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality for inspection.


In the factory of the company, robots carefully picked up the extremely thin glass substrates and placed them at the starting point of the production line.


With the machinery and equipment running at high speed, the glass substrates went through nearly 100 procedures and were made into the screens of mobile phones, TVs and computers in a short time. These screens are believed to serve as “windows” that connect users with the outside world.


Core technologies with independent intellectual property rights are the key to success for enterprises, Xi said.


Key and core technologies can never be asked for, bought or begged for from other countries, said Xi, who believes that only by mastering crucial core technologies with China’s own hands can the country fundamentally safeguard its economic security, national security, and security in other areas.


“I was deeply impressed by the great importance that Xi has attached to core technologies,” said Gao Wenbao, liquid crystal displays (LCD) and sensor business group CEO at BOE, adding that the company has carried out research in key and core technologies of semiconductor display in recent years and become a leader in global LCD industry.


During the 13th Five Year Plan period, China has made a series of major breakthroughs in key and core technologies. Its high-speed railway, 5G mobile communications, and third-generation nuclear reactors have led the way in the world. The country is also among the leaders in the world in technologies in such areas as ocean engineering and combustible ice mining.


The country has ranked first in the world for multiple times in a row in terms of the number of supercomputers in the Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful computer systems.


In January 2019, China’s Chang’e-4 mission achieved humanity’s first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon.


So far, the lander and the Yutu-2 lunar rover of the Chang’e-4 probe have survived more than 600 Earth days on the far side of the moon while conducting scientific explorations.


“Space exploration has no end. Chinese sci-tech and aerospace workers must continue making efforts and promoting the development of the world’s aerospace cause and contribute more Chinese wisdom, solutions, and strength to mankind’s peaceful use of outer space,” noted Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration project.


Wu revealed that China is expected to launch the Chang’e-5 mission this year to achieve regional soft landing and bring samples back to Earth. The mission is expected to be followed by a series of deep space exploration activities.


In recent years, China has continuously raised its level of its aerospace science and technology development and entered a stage featuring normalized high-density launches.


In the year 2019 alone, China carried out 34 space launches and successfully sent 78 satellites into orbit.


In terms of manned spaceflight, Chinese space laboratory Tiangong-2 traveled in space, and helped Chinese astronauts stay in space for 33 days.


China has begun the construction of its space station and is expected to complete the task around 2022.


Aerospace science and technology is playing a more and more significant role in generating and driving a number of emerging industries, injecting more impetus into economic and social development.


For example, the Beidou Navigation Satellite System has been applied in various aspects of life, including the precise positioning of shared bikes as well as the monitoring and warning of geological disasters, producing significant economic and social benefits in many industries.

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