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China’s spending on science research isset to continue rising to 2.5 per cent of its GDP this year, as the nationseeks to catch up on the technology front amid an economic downturn.


The funding target was revealed in a meeting of thecountry’s peak advisory body, the Chinese People’s Poltical ConsultativeConference, on Sunday. It means China will reach its budget goal for researchand development a year ahead of schedule, though scientists say they still donot get enough funding for basic research.


Biophysicist Rao Zihe, a CPPCC delegate, said researchand development spending would hit 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product in2019, citing Beijing’s medium and long-term plan for science and technologydevelopment for 2006 to 2020.


Last year, China spent 1.96 trillion yuan (US$291.58billion) on research and development, or 2.18 per cent of its GDP, an 11.6 percent increase from 2017, according to data from the National Bureau ofStatistics.


China has madeclear in recent years its ambition to become a global tech superpower, with topleadership including President saying science and technology is oneof the main battlefronts of the economy. Part of the campaign is the “Made inChina 2025” strategy unveiled in 2015, which aims to break the country’sreliance on foreign technology in sectors such as robotics, aerospace andnew-energy vehicles.


The strategy was not mentioned in this year’s government work reportdelivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the National People’s Congress on Tuesday,amid growing suspicions in the United States and Europe and trade tensions withthe US. But Li did reiterate China’s plan to upgrade its manufacturing industryand boost technology development.


The government will put more financial and material resources at thedisposal of scientists and cut red tape to enable them to focus on theirresearch.


The tech push is likely to intensify the rivalrybetween Beijing and Washington over dominance of next-generation technologies.US legislators and policymakers have criticised China’s plan as an unfairstate-driven approach to supporting hi-tech industries, including its directsubsidies for domestic companies developing advanced semiconductors. The US hasalso accused China of stealing – and forcing American companies totransfer – its technology, while Chinese officials have blamed the USfor containing its tech development.


“The US is very concerned about China’s technologicaldevelopment, but it doesn’t mean that China is really a strong tech power.”


Rao said China still relied on importsfor its core technology and called on Beijing to map out a long-term strategyfor basic research. He said a task force should be put together, comprisingrepresentatives from the science and technology ministry and scientific institutions,to turn the plan into a top-down approach to research.


“We can only guarantee the nation’s economic, defence andother security aspects when we fully hold the core technology in our hands,”Rao said.


“Our leadership needs to have an open mind and insightfor us to explore new things, instead of focusing on quick results,” Zhao said.“But the government can set the direction – such as improving cancer treatment– for that research”.

“我们的领导层需要有一个开放的头脑和洞察力,让我们去探索新事物,而不是专注于快速的结果。” 赵说:“但是政府可以为这项研究设定方向,比如改善癌症治疗”。