1. Business
  2. Politics and policy
June 1, 2021updated 02 Jun 2021 9:53am

Xi Jinping orders China to become more self-reliant in technology

By Elles Houweling

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a national address on Friday that the country should accelerate its efforts in becoming self-reliant when it comes to science and technology.

At an annual conference consisting of the country’s top scientists, Xi emphasised that China’s scientific and technological independence should be seen as a “strategic goal for national development.”

“The scientific and technological development must target the global science and technology frontiers, serve the main economic battlefields, strive to fulfil the significant needs of the country and benefit people’s life and health,” he said.

Xi also reiterated the country’s goal of becoming a global leader in science and technology, saying that the Party Central Committee “firmly grasps the strategic goal of building a world power in science and technology and embraces the opportunities for global technological development as a core mission.”

The speech comes months after the government pledged it would invest in major national scientific and technological projects to boost the country’s self-reliance as part of its five-year plan.

Previously, China indicated its aim to supply 75% of its semiconductor demands with domestically manufactured chips by 2025. By 2035, the country wants to be fully self-sufficient in the semiconductor market.

According to GlobalData’s thematic research, China has announced a $1.4tn state program to support R&D in key enabling technologies over the next five years. These include semiconductors, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 5G and 6G, data centres and cloud, quantum computing technologies, and low-earth orbit satellites.

This endeavour has undoubtedly been intensified by the continuing trade war with the US. Amid the tensions between Washington and Beijing, many Chinese companies have been banned from doing business with US corporations.

In this process, the US semiconductor industry is likely to shrink as China pushes forward with its domestic chipmaking abilities. The country has already made significant progress in 28nm and 14nm chip technology, a domain in which China aims to achieve parity with the US by the end of this decade.

In his speech on Friday, Xi also urged researchers to spend more time in labs and less time on events – a gesture that was broadly welcomed among the scientific community.

The President said that scholars ought to be freed from “unnecessary distractions, such as meaningless functions, events and administrative paperwork,” saying that this was a necessary condition for China to become a technology superpower.

Xi’s call for the country’s top scientists to focus on their own disciplines and avoid too many external responsibilities can be read as a criticism of the country’s bureaucratic distractions faced by many of China’s top scientists.