Technology and scientific research crucial to Vision 2035 aims to develop world-class strengths with stress on quality, not quantity. China has for the first time unveiled an ambitious road map for its plans to transform into a leading world power by 2035.

Technology innovation and scientific research are key to the Vision 2035 strategy. China plans to become a leading global innovation engine, to catch up to the average income level of developed countries, and display world-class strengths in economy, global governance and soft power, as well as green development.

China will recalibrate its reform strategy, putting greater emphasis on the quality, rather than quantity, of future growth with tech innovation and scientific research as key.

Resources will be directed to seven scientific frontier areas, including artificial intelligence, quantum information and integrated circuits, where US sanctions have been most keenly felt.

The ambitious Sci-Tech Innovation 2030 Agenda, will focus on quantum computing, plan engines and deep-sea stations among others.

China is prepared for a lost US market and is expecting a continuation of the decoupling policies, like the banning of hi-tech product exports to China. In fact, China has no option left but to reply on itself by boosting domestic innovation.

Digital push will set rules to protect personal data

Policymakers intend to build a “Digital China” with clearer boundaries for how and when tech companies can use the massive amounts of data they collect from users.

In his work report to the National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang highlighted “innovation-driven development” and efforts to create “new strengths for the digital economy” under the 14th five-year plan that was submitted to delegates.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the agency involved in drafting five-year plans, said it would research and draft policy documents on the new internet industry, with a focus on guiding the integration of the digital and physical economies.

The draft plan also shows Beijing’s intention to speed up the roll-out of two “fundamental” pieces of legislation: the Personal Information Protection Law and the Data Security Law.

Both laws build on the framework set up by the Cybersecurity Law. The Personal Information Protection Law focuses on protecting personal privacy, while the Data Security Law is aimed more at protecting national security, establishing rules around markets for data and how the government collects and handles data.

Beijing aims to increase added value in the digital economy to 10 per cent of gross domestic product GDP by 2025, up from 7.8 per cent in 2020. The target was ambitious but reasonable considering the untapped potential of the digitalization of traditional industries, said Li Yi, chief research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. “In the past two decades, the digital economy has transformed the way average consumers live, work and entertain [themselves], but there’s still huge room in the so-called industrial internet.”

The plan also calls for nurturing new digital industries, including artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain and cloud computing, along with expanding 5G technologies to more industries such as smart transport and logistics. The new five-year plan encourages firms to share data from search, e-commerce and social media services for the development of a third-party big data platform.

China’s digital economy was valued at 5.2 trillion yuan. At 40 per cent the size of that in the United States, it was still the second largest digital economy in the world, accounting for 36 per cent of China’s gross national product.

The 14th five-year plan also increases scrutiny of internet platforms, continuing a government crackdown on monopolies and unfair competition.

The encouragement from the government has led to the explosive growth of internet companies, but as Big Tech has now gained more powers, the regulators are becoming cautions with their tolerance.