Technology, Innovation, and Industrial Upgrading I
In 2005, China’s leaders set out to rectify this imbalance. The 15-year “Medium toLong-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology” (MLP) set forth ambitious goals to transform China’s S&T efforts from imitator to innovator. The MLP identified four basic science areas as “science megaprojects,” along with thirteen “engineering megaprojects” and eight “frontier technologies” intended to convert scientific knowledge into commercially competitive leading-edge products. The MLP was backed up by China’s 11th and 12th five-year plans, as well as a host of provincial and local efforts to develop world-class S&T capabilities. Significantly, the MLP emphasized the importance of “indigenous innovation” (zizhu chuangxin) to enable China to “leapfrog” its way into scientific leadership.
As China emerges as an innovative world player, its international engagement with scientists and engineers throughout the world is also being transformed. China is now the United States’ leading collaborator in terms of co-authored publications in leading scientific journals. A large number of Chinese students are now studying in universities throughout Europe, North America, and East Asia, learning new habits of research and providing the potential not only for innovative thinking when they return, but also for future collaborations. Science is inherently cosmopolitan: its efforts transcend borders in solution of both shared theoretical concerns and practical applications. China’s industrial policy approach to S&T advance, on the other hand, is inherently nationalistic: China is seeking to become a world leader. How does this tension play out? On the one hand, it may lead to an opening up of China’s approach, particularly as shared research agendas are directed at shared challenges concerning clean energy, global health, food security, and climate change. On the other hand, it is already resulting in increased tensions, the result of concerns about intellectual property theft and Chinese state support for innovative ventures.
This session will explore whether China is succeeding in its high-tech ambitions, positiioning the country to resume its historical place as a world power.