High-quality development highlighted at passage interviews of Chinese ministers

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Chinese Ministers Are Interviewed After The Opening Meeting
Chinese ministers are interviewed after the opening meeting of the second session of the 14th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, March 5. (Photo by Weng Qiyu/People's Daily Online)

By Zhang Jiaying, Wang Zi, 

The first “passage interviews” of ministers for the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) was held at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing on March 5. 

Heads of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) responded to the concerns of the various sectors of society, including promoting sci-tech innovation, advancing national water network construction, ensuring national food security and developing new quality productive forces.

“Last year, China accelerated the implementation of major scientific and technological projects, and continuously improved its strategic strength in science and technology, showing new momentum in development,” said Yin Hejun, Minister of Science and Technology.

In 2023, China’s investment in research and development rose 8.1 percent year-on-year to more than 3.3 trillion yuan ($458.4 billion), accounting for 2.64 percent of the country’s GDP in the same period. In particular, investment in basic research was 221.2 billion yuan, up 9.3 percent from the previous year.

Last year, 950,000 technology contracts were signed in China, with total transaction volume reaching 6.15 trillion yuan, up 28.6 percent from a year ago. The number of authorized invention patents stood at 921,000, up 15.3 percent year-on-year.

China has also made major original achievements in fields such as quantum technology, integrated circuits, artificial intelligence, biomedicine and new energy, according to Yin.

Data show that young talents are gradually becoming the mainstay. It is reported that 80 percent of the projects funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China were undertaken by individuals under the age of 45. More than 1,100 projects supported by the National Key Research and Development Program were led by young scientists under the age of 40, accounting for over 20 percent of the total.

“The Ministry of Science and Technology will strive to create a favorable research environment for better growth and development of young sci-tech talents. It will provide opportunities, build platforms, and address key concerns such as income, treatment, and family issues for them,” Yin said.

Water conservancy is of strategic importance for a country’s overall development, long-term growth, and the well-being of the people. 

In 2023, China’s water conservancy construction accelerated comprehensively, with a record-breaking annual investment of nearly 1.2 trillion yuan, an increase of 10.1 percent compared to the previous year, said Li Guoying, Minister of Water Resources.

Li noted that the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council have issued a guideline on national water network construction, with the goal of establishing a national water network that is well-equipped, secure, efficient, green, intelligent, smoothly circulated and well-regulated by 2035. The guideline also plans to build a national water security system that is compatible with the basic realization of socialist modernization.

Last year, although some parts of China suffered severe natural disasters, the country still reported total grain output of over 695 million tons, an increase of 8.88 million tons compared to the previous year, reaching a new historical high, said Tang Renjian, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

According to him, the per capita grain possession stood at 493 kilograms last year, an increase of 7 kilograms from a year ago, higher than the internationally recognized grain security line of 400 kilograms.

Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of the SASAC, said that this year, China’s centrally-administered state-owned enterprises (SOEs) aim to achieve high-quality development through high-level synergy, effective improvement in quality and reasonable growth in quantity.

“In the first two months of this year, some key industries have performed well. The social electricity sales of central SOEs increased by 13 percent, automobile sales by 15 percent, and aviation and logistics transportation volume by 59 percent from a year ago,” said Zhang. 

“This indicates that the positive trend of economic growth is being consolidated, and we have full confidence in doing a good job in managing state-owned enterprises and assets this year,” Zhang added.

To strengthen their role as the main force driving technological innovation to accelerate the development of new quality productive forces, central SOEs should further promote independent innovation and increase investment, Zhang said. 

They should adhere to open innovation, integrate into the global innovation network, and establish cooperative relationships with domestic research institutions, universities, leading private enterprises, and innovative private enterprises, Zhang added.

To promote industrial upgrading, it is necessary to focus on high-end, intelligent, and green transformations to enhance the efficiency of traditional industries. Strategic emerging industries and future industries should also be given prominent positions. 

“By 2025, the proportion of revenues from strategic emerging industries in central SOEs should reach 35 percent, and early preparations should be made in areas such as brain-like intelligence, quantum information, and controlled nuclear fusion,” said Zhang.

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