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China seeks impetus from innovation
Updated: 2006-03-13 09:50

A gap between the position of the world's fourth largest economy and unfitting technological contribution to such an achievement has awakened China's ambition to become an innovative nation.

China, which boasts the four ancient inventions of paper, gun powder, compass and typography, is now striving to re-embrace its past glory in a matter of 15 years, aiming to turn itself from a manufacture center to a major inventor of the world.

To improve the nation's innovation capacity was listed on the top agenda of China's new five-year plan.

The blueprint of national economic and social development for the 2006-2010 period has been submitted to the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, for examination and approval.

Premier Wen Jiabao pledged, while delivering a report on the work of the government at the opening meeting of the NPC session a week ago, that China will speed up building an innovation-oriented country in the coming years and launch a batch of technological projects covering the information technology, biotechnology, environment and energy.

The reform and opening-up drive, which began in the late 1970s, has ushered China into a path of fast economic growth. GDP growth averaged nearly 10 percent annually over the past two decades.

The country's GDP reached 18.23 trillion yuan in 2005, an increase of 9.9 percent over the previous year.

Behind the admirable economic boom is a worrisome fact that, unlike other large economies in the world, China has to rely mainly on a high cost of energy and resources, instead of technology, to drive its economic expansion.

In terms of the cost efficiency of resources, China trails behind 53 others on a list of 59 countries, according to a research report on sustainable development released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences at the end of February.

In 2005, the country's expenditure on research and development only accounted for 1.3 percent of its GDP, 0.2 percentage points lower than the expected 1.5 percent.

The gap demonstrates a lack of enthusiasm of enterprises for innovation and the insufficiency of technological investment of the whole country, said Guo Guoqing, a professor of the People's University of China and member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top advisory body.

China has to change its image as the "world's manufactory", said Deng Xuping, who works with the China-Costa Rica United Chamber of Industry and Commerce in San Jose, capital of the Republic of Costa Rica.

In Latin America, "Made in China" can be seen on the labels of many goods that produced with cheap Chinese labor, but most of them bear foreign brands, said Deng, executive of the chamber's magazine.

"We have noticed that our country is making efforts in developing products with its own intellectual property rights, and we want to tell our readers China is striving to shape an inventive image," he said in an interview with a Xinhua staff reporter in San Jose.

Citing the examples of hybrid rice, an agricultural invention by scientist Yuan Longping) and Shenzhou spaceships, NPC deputy Liu Yang said that "Chinese people are not only good manufacturers but also good innovators and inventors."

The lawmaker said she hopes the nation will make new inventions in the golden era of its development.

The Chinese government will invest 71.6 billion yuan (8.95 billion U.S. dollars) to encourage innovation this year, 11.526 billion yuan (1.44 billion U.S. dollars) more than that in 2005, up 19.2 percent.

However, Liu said, money itself is not enough to bolster innovation.

"The nation needs to cultivate an innovation-minded concept and only with such an environment can innovation become a major driving force to the country's development," the lawmaker said.

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