CCP sets course for China to become tech power by 2035

Target is part of President Xi's vision for a 'great, modern socialist country' by 2049

China would have to form a strong domestic market in order to build new patterns for development.
China would have to form a strong domestic market in order to build new patterns for development.PHOTO: AFP

China's Communist Party elite have pledged that the country would become a leader in innovation by 2035, setting a course to substantially increase the nation's technological strength.

In a communique released yesterday evening at the end of a four-day conclave of the party's Central Committee, it said China would achieve major breakthroughs in key core technologies by that year.

The year 2035 is significant as Chinese President Xi Jinping has set it as a midterm target for China to "basically realise socialist modernisation".

This is part of his grander vision for the country to become a "great, modern socialist country" by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

The communique yesterday provided broad strokes of the 2035 plan, emphasising the need for a big jump in China's economic, technological and comprehensive national strength.

China should also be at the forefront of innovative countries, said the report at the end of the closed-door meeting of more than 350 Central Committee members.

Known as the Fifth Plenum - so-called because it is the fifth such meeting since the 19th Party Congress in 2017 - the meeting is also being closely watched for China's economic and development priorities over the next five years.

The 14th Five-Year Plan, a development blueprint, also stressed the core position of innovation in China's modernisation.

Party leaders said "technological self-reliance must be the strategic pillar of the country's development".

China must "strengthen its strategic technological strength and raise the ability of its enterprises to innovate", said the communique.

While Mr Xi had set similar goals for technological progress at the 19th Party Congress, developing indigenous technology has taken on critical importance because of the United States-China tech war, said Beijing-based political economist Hu Xingdou.

He pointed out that this emphasis on technological self-reliance was recognition from China's top leaders that there was a big gap between the country and other developed nations in core technologies such as microchips, engine technology and precision instruments.

"China is too far behind and the party can see that if there is no indigenous innovation, only a dead end awaits," said Professor Hu.

Now that Beijing has set down the broad blueprint, it will be up to Chinese officials down the line to come up with the details.

The communique also referenced challenges posed by a complex international environment and rising uncertainties, but said peace and development were still the main themes for this era.

This seemed to be an indication that top leaders did not want to inflame tensions with the US, said Prof Hu, adding that the focus was clearly on "immersing ourselves to develop the country".

As expected, party leaders also doubled down on the "dual-circulation strategy" mooted by Mr Xi, which aims to boost domestic consumption and reduce reliance on foreign markets in the face of greater uncertainty.

China would have to form a strong domestic market in order to build new patterns for development, said the report, pointing out that there was a big gap between the development and incomes of urban and rural areas.

Party leaders also took stock of China's achievements and estimated that gross domestic product this year would exceed 100 trillion yuan (S$20.34 trillion).

The country is also expected to lift 55.75 million people out of poverty this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2020, with the headline 'CCP sets course for China to become tech power by 2035'. Print Edition | Subscribe