China in 2020 – on the crossroad of taking over by changing lane

“Taking over by changing lane” has emerged as a new and popular Chinese policy message in the recent years – as China enters a new phase of medium-speed growth with a changing role in a changing world. In the super (policy) year 2020, China’s catching-up and transformational journey seems to approach a critical crossroad for further finetuning the “lane change” and making efforts to accelerating the “taking-over”. In such a context, research and innovation will be key drivers for China’s transformation towards a high-quality and more sustainable growth, i.e.:

  • From a follower to a follower and a leader, i.e. catching up, keeping up and taking the lead, at the same time, in the global innovation race.
  • From learning-by-doing from international experience and best practices to trying out a China model and China solutions.
  • From China speed and China scale only to China quality and China brands combined with its speed and scale.
Source: Modified based on the presentation of Hongguang Wang at the 8th Innovation and Capital Forum, Beijing, 15 Jan 2020.    

Underneath this visible and measurable progress, there is an on-going development of a few structural transformers, which do not only accelerate, but also deepen China’s innovation-driven and high-quality transformation:

  • Intensified interdisciplinary knowledge creation and trans-sectoral system integration and innovation, beyond silo-based research and technological breakthroughs.
  • System innovation management and governance as new elements and key enablers for a new generation of innovation policy, i.e. not only for competitiveness, but also for the societal and the global good.  

Having the above in mind, in 2020, our monitoring and strategic promotion work will focus on the following new trends, new drivers and new developments:  

Knowledge- and innovation powerhouse China

Departing from the rapid and significant progress, in terms of quality-improvement and global impact that China’s universities and the research community have achieved in the past years, China’s ambition and actions to become a leading knowledge- and innovation powerhouse will be further enhanced through: 

  • Strategy development and long-term guidelines for closer and deeper integration of research and innovation with the transformation process, i.e. as one of the key drivers for China’s high-quality growth.
  • New approaches and concrete measures to reform and strengthen China’s higher education and basic research, i.e. in forms of new types of research institutions and a new generation of research and innovation-oriented universities. 
  • China’s strategic and long-term investments in the fields of quantum science and life science as well as sustainability-related interdisciplinary and cutting-edge research and innovation.

Digital and intelligent China

With the fast development of its “digital economy” and as an emerging “global superpower for Artificial Intelligence, the digital and intelligent China is moving to a new phase, focusing on the roll-out of new applications as well as putting more emphasis on governance and regulatory issues to deal with the societal and social consequences:

  • From perception to cognition supported by rapid and large-scale 5G roll-out – AI applications and its integration with brain research in some strategic fields, such as transport, mobility and life science.
  • Application of digital twins and its integration with IoT for both increased precision and improved cost-effectiveness that could fundamentally enhance China’s smart society and smart industry development.   
  • BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) in green finance and sustainable value chain and blockchain as a new foundation for transparency and trust-building for business operation and in the society.

Sustainable and Healthy China

The year 2020 will be the deadline to meet targets in the 2018 three-year action plan to fight air pollution from the State Council. In recent years, environment and health has emerged as two integrated key pillars for China’s transformation towards a high-quality growth. New steps and new approaches will be taken in 2020 to deepen the alignment of the environmental, economic and social dimensions in the transformation process:

  • Sustainable consumption and sustainable waste management, i.e. no longer sustainable production alone, as key focus for China’s high-quality growth when the environmental impact of consumption is increasing rapidly.
  • Nature-based solutions for mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change as part of China’s enhanced and innovative climate actions, particularly in the light of the COP15 meeting on biodiversity hosted by China.
  • Green finance, climate finance and their contribution to greening China’s real economy, as an integral element for supporting the launch of China’s national carbon trading scheme as well as the “structural greening” of China’s financial sector. 

Given China’s progress in becoming an emerging innovation powerhouse, the year 2020 will be a critical year for China to continue to re-define its role and its approach in the global innovation race. China’s research and innovation development will not only be important for the bilateral Sweden-China cooperation, but will also have profound implications for how joint efforts could be made to deal with global challenges.

Having this exciting and important year ahead of us, we are looking forward to contributing with useful information and insights as well as meaningful exchange and support to our Swedish and Chinese partners. We are also looking forward to deepened and fruitful cooperation and joint actions with our Swedish and Chinese partners.

Last and not least, we wish our Chinese partners and friends a very Happy Chinese New Year!

Nannan, Jessica, Linnea and Matilde