Not far from the main venue of the sessions, the Great Hall of the People, a popular exhibition is being staged at the National Museum of China to showcase the progress of the country’s manned space program over 30 years, precisely illustrating how China has accomplished in sci-tech self-reliance as well as benefits it has brought to the world.
Self-reliant but open
According to a government work report submitted Sunday for the national legislators to deliberate, breakthroughs have been made in core technologies in key fields, and a series of innovations have emerged in areas such as manned spaceflight, lunar and Martian exploration, deep-sea and deep-earth probes, supercomputers, satellite navigation, quantum information, nuclear power technology, airliner manufacturing and artificial intelligence.
In late 2022, China’s space station Tiangong entered the new phase of application and development. It now features a basic three-module configuration consisting of the core module named Tianhe, and two lab modules, Wentian and Mengtian.
The construction of the space station benefits from China’s system of pooling national resources and strengths. Hundreds of thousands of scientific researchers have participated in the program, inspired by the spirit of self-reliance and independent innovation. The self-development rate of key components of the space station reached 100 percent.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed on many occasions the importance of self-reliance and self-improvement in science and technology.
Speeding up efforts to achieve greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology is the path China must take to advance high-quality development, said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, while attending a deliberation with his fellow deputies from the delegation of Jiangsu Province on Sunday at the ongoing first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature.
To open up new areas and new arenas in development and foster new growth drivers and new strengths in face of fierce international competition, China should ultimately rely on scientific and technological innovation, he said.
Building self-reliance and strength in science and technology is key to building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects within the set time frame, Xi added.
The nation’s achievements in space exploration, with the space station construction as an outstanding example, reflect the strength of innovation in China, said Wang Xiaojun, head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body.
Sci-tech empowerment is a prominent symbol of China’s high-quality development, while sci-tech innovation has become an important driving force for Chinese modernization, Wang added.
The country moved up to the 11th place in the 2022 Global Innovation Index and firmly remains the only middle-income economy in the top 30, according to the latest ranking published by the World Intellectual Property Organization.
China’s spending on research and development totaled 3.087 trillion yuan (about 445 billion U.S. dollars) in 2022, an increase of 10.4 percent over the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Not only does the perseverance with self-reliance advance the sci-tech development of China, but it also creates more opportunities for global cooperation.
In its manned space program, China has signed agreements and carried out cooperation projects with France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Pakistan, and many space agencies and organizations. Its Tiangong space station is the first of its kind open to all UN member states.
In a cooperation program with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, projects from 17 countries have been included in the first batch of Tiangong’s experiments in aerospace medicine, life sciences and biotechnology, microgravity physics and combustion science, astronomy and other emerging technologies.
China is fully aware that independent innovation should never exclude international cooperation.
The global chain
Self-reliance in science and technology has helped Chinese high-tech enterprises to forge their core competitiveness, and enabled them to become an essential part in the global innovative industrial chain.
Located in Ningde, east China’s Fujian Province, battery producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) is now operating at full capacity, with its blue battery cells to be shipped to automakers worldwide, including BMW, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo.
Founded in 2011, CATL has ranked first in the world in terms of the usage of its power battery system for six consecutive years, and also in the shipment of its energy storage battery for two consecutive years.
To get more deeply involved in global industrial cooperation, CATL has built power battery production plants in Thuringia of Germany and Debrecen of Hungary. In February, it confirmed that it would work with Ford Motor Company on the latter’s lithium iron phosphate battery plant in the U.S. state of Michigan, providing technology and service support to the new plant.
In 2022, China’s foreign trade withstood the impact of multiple unexpected factors, with exports of EVs, photovoltaic (PV) products and lithium batteries growing by 131.8 percent, 67.8 percent and 86.7 percent, respectively.
According to the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, China’s global market share of PV polysilicon, lithium battery cells and modules exceeded 70 percent in 2021.
"China today is the biggest driver of clean energy technologies," Fatih Birol, chief of the International Energy Agency, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
Zou Ming, an NPC deputy and a senior engineer with the Panzhihua Iron and Steel Research Institute, said that enterprises should give full play to the major role of innovation and transform sci-tech innovation into the biggest driving force on the Chinese path to modernization.
Benefits for all
While adhering to independent innovation, China has been actively promoting sci-tech sharing and exchanges, aiming to benefit all mankind.
The contribution of scientific and technological progress to the country’s economic growth has exceeded 60 percent, said the government work report.
In February, a group of guests from Mexico came to Fujian Province to study the technology of "Juncao," an economical and environmentally friendly substitute for timber as a substrate for growing mushrooms.
Discovered by Chinese scientists, Juncao is famed as "magic grass," as it is particularly suitable for developing countries to improve their agriculture and reduce poverty.
It is becoming a new sustainable industry in countries and regions along the Belt and Road and has been introduced to 106 countries, creating hundreds of thousands of job opportunities and helping to alleviate poverty.
At a UN meeting in 2019, former President of the General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces described Juncao as "emblematic of China’s Belt and Road Initiative," which, according to the World Bank’s estimates, could contribute to lifting 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty.
China has also hosted a large number of international students learning about the Juncao technology. So far, the country has held 310 international training sessions on the technology, both at home and abroad, training more than 10,000 people.
When chairing a group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee last month, Xi noted that efforts should be made to enhance openness, trust and cooperation in the international sci-tech community to make new and greater contributions to the progress of human civilization.
China has established sci-tech cooperation relations with more than 160 countries and regions, and signed 116 inter-governmental agreements on sci-tech cooperation.
In 2022, China signed or renewed 25 international sci-tech cooperation documents, and carried out fruitful cooperation with many countries in multiple fields, including COVID-19 control, biodiversity, climate change and clean energy.
The country’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope has been available for scientists worldwide since April 1, 2021. Meanwhile, products, technologies and services related to the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System have been applied in more than half of all countries around the world.
After the recent devastating earthquake hit Türkiye, China quickly deployed several satellites to help analyze the disaster situation and allocate relief resources.
Sci-tech progress will make China better prepared for international sci-tech cooperation, and the country will continue to contribute to global sci-tech development for the benefit of humanity.