SCIO briefing on China's strategy of promoting innovation-driven development and efforts to build China into an innovation-oriented country

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Hu Kaihong:

Thank you, Mr. Wang. The floor is open for questions. Please state the news outlet you represent first.

Science and Technology Daily:

My questions are about basic research. General Secretary Xi Jinping called for persistence in strengthening basic research at a symposium attended by scientists in Beijing on Sept. 11. My question is, how does the Ministry of Science and Technology strengthen basic research and applied basic research? What important progress has been made in the field of basic research during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020)? For instance, what kind of outstanding achievements have been made through the original innovation from "zero to one?" Are there any new measures in this regard? Thanks.

Wang Zhigang:

I will answer these questions. We all know that basic research, applied basic research, technological innovation, innovative uses of technology and industrialization are all involved in scientific research. Among them, basic research can be likened to the source of a waterway and the master switch of scientific research. In addition, the capability of basic research determines the character and sustainable momentum of a country's sci-tech innovation capability. The first-mover advantages always begin with basic research. People's discoveries, their grasping of the rules, and the summary and application of research approaches and patterns are the basis for, key to and even lie at the core of a country's sci-tech innovation capability. During the 13th Five-Year Plan, implementing the decisions made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we perceived the main trends in new sci-tech revolution and industrial transformation, and met them while adapting to changes at home and aboard. Basic research and underpinning technological research and development have been taken as the breakthrough point for sci-tech innovation. We insist on the combination of free inquiry and goal orientation, focus more on original orientation and questions of basic research found in economic and social development and industrial practice, and promote the integration of basic research, applied basic research and technological innovation, so as to bring into full play the underpinning support and guiding role of basic research to sci-tech innovation.

First, we have strengthened the top-level design and systematic layout. Multiple Opinions on Strengthening Basic Scientific Research was issued, and the Work Programme for Strengthening Basic Research from "Zero to One" established and Multiple Measures on Strengthening Basic Research in the New Era implemented. These documents are first to specially strengthen basic research in the history at the national level. They stress basic research from "zero to one", the importance of maths, and also drive the systematic overhaul of the State Natural Sciences Fund. The Work Programme for Strengthening Maths-based Scientific Research has been issued to strengthen basic subject building. Thirteen national applied maths centers have been set up in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. A batch of basic research projects have been deployed in major areas such as quantum science, stem cell, synthetic biology and nanoscience. Science satellites involving in dark matter and quantum science including Wukong, Mozi and Huiyan have been successfully launched. A group of internationally-significant original achievements have been introduced in major areas such as iron-based superconductor, quantum entanglement and key distribution, heterogeneous fusion brain-inspired chip, chiral molecular synthesis, heterozygous stem cell and graphene controllable folding, as well as a large number of leading talents and innovation teams in basic research cultivated.

Second, the investment in basic research has been sharply increasing through boosting central fiscal support and motivating local enterprises and social programs with government guidance, effective coordination at central and local levels and tax leverage. Investment in basic research increased from 71.6 billion yuan in 2015 to 133.56 billion in 2019, with an average annual growth rate of 16.9%, which is far greater than that of China's total research spending. In 2019, investment in basic research accounted for 6% of the total for the first time.  

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