China's tech quest not a closed-door attempt: Minister

Self-reliance, independent innovation are not in conflict with openness and cooperation, he says

China's pursuit of technological self-reliance and desire to be a leader in innovation is not an exclusive or closed-door attempt, Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang said yesterday as he outlined the country's development plans over the next five years.

Being self-reliant and emphasising independent innovation were "not in conflict with openness and cooperation", Mr Wang told reporters.

He was among a panel of senior Chinese officials briefing journalists a day after a high-level closed-door meeting of Communist Party leaders.

A communique of the meeting released on Thursday said that top party officials had stressed the importance of technological independence in China's development priorities over the next half-decade - known here as the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Mr Wang yesterday sought to dispel the notion that the country was going to hunker down and close itself off to the world.

"China's pursuit of innovation has never been enclosed or exclusive. It is based on mutual respect, mutual learning; we will not shut our door to the world in pursuing innovation," he said.

Beijing would learn from advanced foreign partners and also share China's technological developments with the world, he said.

"We are ready to engage in dialogue and exchanges with all countries on technological policies, development planning, science, ethics and other important topics in this field," he said.

Saying that China had entered a new phase of development and needed a "new development paradigm", Mr Wang pointed out this was the first time that a Five-Year Plan had an entire chapter dedicated to science, technology and innovation.

HSBC economists had in a research note on Tuesday highlighted the importance of international collaboration in China's quest to climb the technology ladder, pointing out that increased engagement "can lead to more technology diffusion".

The just-ended meeting of the party's Central Committee - known as the Fifth Plenum - is being closely watched by observers for China's future development priorities as it responds to challenges posed by tensions with the United States and the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

At yesterday's briefing, Mr Han Wenxiu, deputy director of the Office of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission, said that along with Covid-19, China also faced external challenges like rising unilateralism and protectionism.

He said the country needed to shore up its resilience by boosting its domestic economy while explaining the new "dual circulation strategy".

He rejected the notion that this meant foreign markets would be less important.

"On the contrary, what can be expected is continued increase of imports and exports in foreign investment and in outbound Chinese investment.

"This will elevate China's standing internationally," he said.

Addressing US-China tensions, he said complete decoupling of the world's two biggest economies was "not realistic at all".

Mr Han said: "It does no good for China, the US and the whole world.

"The truth is very few would really want to see the two countries decouple. Most would want our two countries to cooperate and work together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2020, with the headline 'China's tech quest not a closed-door attempt: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe