CHINA is chipping in more money on research and development as the country drives towards its other goal of becoming a country of innovators.
The nation will spend 354.3bil yuan (RM215.93bil) on research and development as well as science and technology innovation programmes this year, announced Finance Minister Liu Kun at the Two Sessions conference.
The Two Sessions is the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) – the closest event China has to a parliament session.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening up policy.
As China is progressing towards its goal of building a moderately prosperous society, it is important to ensure a smooth transition from a developing country to becoming a world superpower with a strong ability for innovation.
There is no lack of innovative talents in China, a country that created the four great ancient inventions namely compass, gunpowder, printing and paper-making skills.
Plans have been mapped out for China to regain its former glory in this field.
Among them will be the setting up of a science and technology innovation board that will pilot the IPO registration system and the issuing of special bonds for innovation and entrepreneurship to encourage more participation from the private sector.
President Xi Jinping has emphasised that the government must create a good environment that promotes innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity throughout the society, while Premier Li Keqiang called for more decision-making power be given to scientific researchers, be it on utilising the funds, manpower or resources.
“We must respect and trust our scientists and researchers,” he added while delivering the government’s work report for 2018 and the draft plans for 2019 at the opening of NPC.
He announced that China would improve mechanisms for training and employing talents, including overseas Chinese graduates and foreign professionals.
“China has the largest pool of scientific and technological personnel in the world.
“If we foster a healthy research environment, we will be sure to see brilliant and capable people in all fields and create a boundless stream of innovations,” he added.
Last year, China – which has nearly 4.2 million R&D researchers -– ranked 17th in the world innovation ability chart.
According to the National Intellectual Property Administration, the nation received about 1.54 million applications for invention patents in 2018, confirming its leadership globally in the invention field.
Last year, the country offered a tax deduction of 75% of the expenses spent on R&D projects for local companies carrying out their own works.
It also extended the period for rollover of losses from five years to 10 years for new and high-technology companies as well as small and medium science-tech enterprises; and a one-off tax deduction for the purchase of new equipment to boost this field.
Chinese Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang said guidelines and laws will continue to be drafted and amended to better manage research academic ethics and integrity.
“It is necessary for scientists to be aware of their professionalism and conduct while adhering to the regulations in commercialising their scientific achievements,” he told the media at an event held on the sideline of the Two Sessions.
Wang noted that science and technology is a double-edged sword, adding that fast-developing technologies, artificial intelligence and gene editing led to infringement of privacy as well as ethical controversies.
Last November, Chinese scientist He Jiankui sparked global outrage by announcing his “success” in creating the world’s first gene-edited human babies, who are immune to HIV.
The associate professor of Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, claimed that the newborns – a pair of twins – had their DNA altered so that they would be immune to the disease.
Chinese authorities issued an immediate suspension order to the research, saying the move was unacceptable as it violated Chinese laws, which was against using gene editing technology on human embryos for reproductive purposes, and breached the science ethics bottom line.
The babies have been put under medical observation.
Since 2016, He recruited a team comprising local and foreign researchers while forging documents to enlisted eight pairs of volunteer couples – with HIV-positive men and HIV-negative women – for the experiments.
Two female volunteers became pregnant with one giving birth to a pair of twin girls.
The other woman has not given birth as of press time.
Investigators said He, who has been sacked, financed and organised the experiment himself in pursuit of personal fame.