China achieves biggest sci-tech progress in past decade: Minister

The past decade has witnessed China’s biggest progress in science and technology, with the country climbing to the 12th position on the global list of most innovative economies, up from the 34th place in 2012, a Chinese official said on Monday.

Wang Zhigang, Chinese minister of science and technology, made the remarks at a press briefing in Beijing, citing the Global Innovation Index released annually by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

In 2021, China’s total expenditure on research and development (R&D) reached 2.79 trillion yuan (about $420 billion), the second-highest in the world. It accounted for 2.44 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which was close to the average level of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, Wang said.

That’s up from the 1.03-trillion-yuan investment in R&D in 2012, which took up 1.91 percent of its GDP back then, according to Wang.

China’s funding for basic research is 3.4 times what it was ten years ago, reaching an all-time high for the country, Wang noted.

The country’s science and technology talent pool has also been growing over the past decade. In 2021, China’s R&D manpower reached 5.62 million man-years, which was the highest globally and 1.7 times that of 2012, he said.

In 2021, China’s turnover of technology contracts reached 3729.4 billion yuan, 5.8 times that of 2012, accounting for 3.26 percent of the country’s GDP.

The number of invention patents owned by every 10,000 people rose to 19.1 in 2021 from 3.2 in 2012.

The proportion of scientifically literate citizens in the country increased from 3.27 percent in 2010 to 10.56 percent in 2020.

Open wider to the world

China will open wider to the world in science and technology, exchange and cooperate with more countries, and make more contributions to the world’s scientific and technological progress and sustainable development, Wang said.

Wang said openness and cooperation are intrinsic to the development of science and technology and indispensable to addressing global challenges.

China pursues an open, inclusive and mutually beneficial international cooperation strategy in science and technology, which leads to cooperation with 161 countries and regions, Wang added.

World-leading scientific and technological infrastructure such as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) is open to all scientists, domestic or not. “The FAST has provided observation service to 27 scientific projects in 14 countries around the world,” said Hou Jianguo, head of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

China just launched the Shenzhou-14 crewed spaceship on Sunday, sending three taikonauts for a six-month mission to help complete the construction of the country’s space station by the end of this year.

Since last year, the country has successfully launched the Tianhe core module, three Tianzhou cargo ships and carried out two manned missions to construct the space station.

With the International Space Station set to retire in the coming years, China’s space station will become the only one orbiting the Earth. Officials from the China National Space Administration have expressed willingness for international cooperation and for non-Chinese astronauts to participate in the country’s future space station missions.

(Gong Zhe and Liu Wei also contributed to the story.)