Xi Jinping calls on science to solve the big problems choking China

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has issued a rallying cry to the country’s scientific community, urging them to overcome weaknesses “strangling” China, especially its reliance on overseas technology.

Xi told a forum in Beijing on Friday that more than ever before China needed scientific solutions to its problems, state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.

“Amid fierce international competition, unilateralism and protectionism, we must work out our own way to upgrade, become more innovative and make more breakthroughs from scratch,” he said.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

The call came a day after the United States further restricted use of American technology by Chinese companies, and expanded bans on Chinese science students studying in the US.

On Thursday, the US State Department announced it had revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese nationals who were studying or doing research in the US, accusing them of having ties with Chinese military, a move the Chinese side described as “sheer political persecution and racism”.

China must prioritise innovation to avoid being ‘strangled’ by US in next five years, top researcher says

Xi said China faced “deep and complex” changes in the domestic and international environment, which demanded faster advances in science.

He said that some of the main areas of research should be to overcome the agricultural sector’s reliance on imported seed; to resolve the need to import various critical components in core manufacturing technology; and to ease the country’s dependence on overseas oil supplies.

He also listed a number of “practical problems” holding back economic and social development that “China must tackle”.

These included a lack of advanced agricultural technology, pollution and poor distribution of water resources.

The country’s ageing population also needed improvements in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, he said.

“For technologies where there can be imminent breakthroughs and solutions, you must quickly move forward; for strategic technologies that take time, you must deploy resources in advance,” Xi told the scientists.

While stressing the need for greater self-reliance, Xi also said China must be more open, inclusive and proactive in strengthening international scientific cooperation.

“The more blockades and suppression we face, the less we should isolate ourselves,” Xi said.

He said there was a particular need now to promote cooperation with researchers from other countries to contain the coronavirus, from developing vaccines to improving tests for the pathogen.

Xi said China would try to attract top professionals and create a “competitively attractive environment and conditions” for scientists from overseas to work in China.

“We will gradually allow international science and technology organisations to set up in China, allow foreign scientists to work in Chinese science and technology institutions, and make China a free arena for open global cooperation in science and technology,” Xi said.

Coronavirus poses new test for China’s hi-tech trade as pandemic adds to US trade war pressure

In addition, the president called on Chinese scientists to be “patriotic and innovative”, invoking the examples of researchers who developed the country’s nuclear weapons, missiles and satellites from the 1950s to the 1970s.

“I hope you, our scientists … carry forward the spirit of [the patriotic scientists], shoulder your historical duty and integrate your own scientific pursuit into the great cause of building a modern socialist country,” Xi said.

Xi laid out a strategy of “concentrating resources” under the socialist state system to “push forward key technological breakthroughs”, such as establishing a group of national laboratories and restructuring existing ones to form a strategic force in science.

Xi promised more state investment in basic science and more support from the business and finance communities. He also pledged more official sweeteners, including bank financing and tax breaks, for institutions and companies doing basic scientific research.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Xi Jinping calls on science to solve the big problems choking China first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting