Science, innovation and sustainability at the Two Sessions

“Two sessions”, or in Chinese “Lianghui”[1] are THE most important political events in China. Normally, taking place in March every year, but they were postponed to May 22-28 this year due to the Covid-19 situation – with a shortened...

“Two sessions”, or in Chinese “Lianghui”[1] are THE most important political events in China. Normally, taking place in March every year, but they were postponed to May 22-28 this year due to the Covid-19 situation – with a shortened format, but strong symbolic: China is on the track towards a post-Covid 19 recovery and it starts at home…        

Even though “Two-sessions” have become heavily monitored political events in China and worldwide, it might still feel somehow remote and hard to grasp in a Nordic context. In our monitoring of “Two Sessions”  we probably need to move beyond the “Report on the Work of the Government” and “The Draft Central and Local Budget and find  a different approach and a more personal tone – to highlight the key messages as well as to make them more accessible. This blog is our “experimental Two-Sessions” reporting for 2020.

A Big-Data based “Two Session 101” – with a global view

Firstly, how interested are the international communities in the “Two Sessions”? CGTN (China Global Television Network) has made a Big-Data empowered screening of English-language media reports on Two Session during 2013 – 2019, and here are a few interesting findings:

  • Foreign countries with the largest daily media coverage during the “Two Sessions” are: US, India, UK, Japan, Brazil, France, South Africa, Canada, Russia, Italy and Germany.  
  • In the Government’s Work Report at the two Sessions this year, the key words and highlights, measured by number of appearances, are illustrated in the Figure below.  Even more frequent than usual, “Development” appeared 76 times in the Work Report and, not surprisingly, “Epidemic” came up as a new keyword.
  • With the increasing downward pressure on the economy, especially under the influence of the epidemic, it is of particular importance that the Work Report specifically mentioned that China  must continue to fight the battle of pollution prevention and control, which needs to be done legally, scientifically, and precisely.
Source: CGTN

Science and Innovation ­– Key message snapshots

Having the “big picture” in mind, let us take a look at the key messages from the Two Sessions related to science and innovation:[2]

  • China’s “3-steps” Science and Innovation Development Roadmap/Timeline: To be an innovation nation by 2020, to be one of the leading innovation nations in the world by 2035 and by 2050 to be a science and innovation “powerhouse”.
  • China’s view on the “innovation nation” development:

1) Targeting the world’s technological frontier, driven by China’s major strategic needs, and meeting the main socioeconomic objectives, i.e. both challenge- and mission-driven.

2) Not only knowledge and technology development, but also structural and institutional reforms in the national and regional innovation systems as well as innovations in management practices and business models, i.e. innovation dynamics in both public and business sectors.  

3) New types of Research and Development (R&D institutions) to promote original innovations, i.e. from 0 to 1, through  Big Science, Big teams (multidisciplinary) and Big Platforms (cross-sectoral).

4) New financing mechanism: market-oriented investments and financing mechanisms to support the equal participation of private enterprises as well as to encourage science-industry collaboration in basic research.

China’s leading scientists and business leaders voice at the Two Session

As one of the most interesting parts of the Two Sessions, China’s leading scientists and business leaders share their ideas and views. This provide not only a different, or complementary, perspective on some of the most strategic policy issues, but is also supported by insights achieved from their “on-the-ground” experience. Here are a few examples:[3]

Hopefully, our “experimental” monitoring on the “Two Sessions” can give you a flavour of China’s strategic policy agenda related to science, innovation and sustainability as well as the “big picture” as a broader context. Interestingly, from the above “Two Sessions” observations, we do see some similarities between China and Sweden – when it comes to both the role of science and innovation as well as some specific thematic priorities:

  • The same focus on challenge-driven and mission-driven nature of innovation development can serve as a departing point to identify our common and global challenges, not least in the field of sustainable transformation;
  • The common interests in research and innovation related to public health, transport- and logistics system as well as sustainable consumption and marine- and on-land ecosystem protection are keystones in an innovation-driven sustainable transformation that call for our joint efforts and co-creation.  

Looking ahead, the rest of 2020 will be a much intensified “policy super-year” in China, partly to “catch-up” with the delays and losses caused by Covid-19, but also to gear up towards the 14th Five-Year Plan and China’ second Medium-and Long-term Science and Technology Development Plan, which all will start from 2021.

Let us continue to watch, to learn and to explore, together – in this special time, with great uncertainties, but also underlying dynamics for re-orientation, re-starting and re-shaping the way forward…   

Nannan Lundin, Linnea Yang, Jessica Zhang and Matilde Eng 


[1] The National People’s Congress (NPC): China’s highest legislative body and has sole responsibility for enacting legislation in China. The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC): a political advisory body that consists of representatives from industry, academia, business, entertainment, politics, and other areas.

[2] http://www.scio.gov.cn/

[3] For more details, see e.g. https://tech.sina.com.cn/zt_d/techlianghui/ (in Chinese)

Photos are all from Internet. Theme image source: shine.cn