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China eyes to become high-tech exporter

2014-06-20 08:24 Xinhua Web Editor: Qin Dexing

High-speed rail were once again buzzwords in Chinese diplomacy this week as they were included in a joint statement issued in London after a meeting between visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron.[Special coverage]

This was not the first time that Li has promoted China's high-speed rail technology to other countries during overseas visits, but it was the first to a Western developed country.

In the document, the two sides agreed to promote cooperation on design and construction of railways, including high-speed rail, paving the way for Chinese enterprises to participate in one of Britain's largest infrastructure projects HS2 (High Speed 2), a rail project linking London and the north of England.

High-speed rail has become a new "image card" for China. A video of a Chinese bullet train made its way to Times Square, New York, this year, showcasing the advanced equipment.

Behind the "high-speed rail diplomacy" is China's endeavor to shift from labor-intensive and low-end manufacturing to an innovation hub for high-end technology.

Apart from high-speed rail, Britain, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, also expressed a willingness to welcome investment in energy, particularly nuclear, offshore wind power and photovoltaic projects, the joint statement said.

During Li's trip, trade and investment deals worth over 30 billion U.S. dollars were signed between Chinese and British firms in areas of finance, technology, education, energy and infrastructure.

"China is striving to grasp the opportunities brought by a new technological and industrial revolution," said Liang Xiaohong, Party chief of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology,

Liang said the Chinese leadership has a strategy to boost innovation-driven development, and promoting advanced technologies including high-speed rail to other countries is part of it.

Addressing a biennial conference of the country's two leading think tanks earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said the direction of China's sci-tech development is "innovation, innovation and innovation."

China must catch up with new developments in sci-tech innovation and try to become a leading force, said Xi.

After growing to become the world's second largest economy, China is now seeking to shed its image as a "world factory" and inject vitality into the country by grasping opportunities the technological revolution offers.

Money has been pouring into innovation. Expenditure on research and development (R&D) topped 1 trillion yuan (about 168 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012, about 1.97 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It surpassed 2 percent for the first time to reach 2.05 percent in 2013.

China plans to become an innovative country by 2020, when scientific progress is predicted to contribute 60 percent of the nation's economic development, and R&D investment will jump to 2.5 percent of GDP, according to a government sci-tech development document.

The contribution to China's economic development from scientific progress has increased from 39 percent in 2011 to nearly 52 percent at present, official statistics showed, with some key technologies ranking among the first in the world.

Tian Lipu, former commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), described China becoming an innovative country as "a revolution".

"It will be a long and winding road to shift from imitating others to independent innovation," he said.

"The good news is, however, efforts to be innovative have achieved results and there's a promising future ahead," Tian said.

China's patent applications surpassed the United States for the first time in 2011 with 525,000 recorded.

The government accepted nearly 2.38 million applications and authorized over 1.31 million in 2013. The number of invention patent applications was 825,000, up 26.3 percent year on year.

It is, however, far too early to celebrate such achievements.

The nation's foundation of technological innovation is not solid and the capability for independent innovation is not strong.

"Though China is a big patent country, it is not a strong one," said SIPO chief Shen Changyu.

Compared with developed countries, China has fewer patents featuring originality, and high or core value, Shen said, adding that there are moves to improve quality and structure of patents.

Innovation capability needs to be enhanced, because it still does not control key technology in core areas, he said.

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