The following is the text of a speech that Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered to a symposium of scientists on September 11, 2020, which he had convened to solicit input for China’s upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan. Xi stresses the need for China to improve its economic and scientific self-sufficiency. To that end, he urges increased investment in basic research, and advocates both improved academic training for scientists at PRC universities and continued efforts to recruit foreign scientists to work in China.
The Chinese source text is available online here: https://web.archive.org/web/20200915164319/http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2020-09/11/c_1126483997.htm
Independently of CSET, the Stanford University-New America DigiChina Project also translated this speech into English. DigiChina’s translation is available at:
DigiChina also provided analytical commentary from several China specialists that contextualizes the speech and flags noteworthy passages in it. The commentary is available online at:
Translator: Etcetera Language Group, Inc.
Editor: Ben Murphy, CSET Translation Lead
We convene the scientists’ symposium today in order to hear everyone’s opinions and suggestions on promoting innovation-driven development and accelerating science and technology (S&T) innovation during the “14th Five-Year Plan” and for an even longer period of time. The scientists and S&T workers attending today’s symposium come from scientific research institutes, institutions of higher learning, and enterprises. They are engaged in basic research, applied basic research, and applied research. There are also foreign scientists working in China.
A short while ago, you presented many valuable opinions and suggestions from the perspectives of your own fields of research about such matters as deepening S&T institutional reforms and promoting S&T innovation and development. I ask that the parties concerned conscientiously research and assimilate your ideas. Now, in light of your statements, I will express a few opinions of my own.
I. Fully Recognizing the Major Strategic Significance of Accelerating S&T Innovation
Since the 18th Party Congress, we have been taking S&T innovation work quite seriously and have insisted on making innovation the primary driving force (第一动力) that spurs development. Thanks to the combined efforts of our entire society, S&T in China has achieved historic success and has undergone a historic transformation. Major innovative achievements have emerged through competition. In some cutting-edge fields, China is beginning to achieve parity with other countries or to take the lead. Our S&T strength is now moving away from merely racking up the numbers towards rapid improvements in quality, and from isolated breakthroughs towards enhanced systemic capabilities. In the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, many S&T workers tackled key scientific research problems in important fields such as treatment, vaccine development, and prevention and control. They provided powerful support and major contributions toward the overall plan to push forward with epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development. I take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to these many S&T workers!
As the world undergoes major disruptions of a sort not seen in a century, China’s development is challenged by domestic and foreign environments that are experiencing profoundly complex changes. China’s development urgently requires an acceleration of S&T innovation in the 14th Five-Year Plan and beyond. First, accelerating S&T innovation is necessary in order to propel high-quality development. The building of a modernized economic system and the promotion of a revolution in quality and efficiency requires powerful S&T support. Second, accelerating S&T innovation is necessary for realizing high quality of life for the people. The main contradiction in Chinese society has now become the contradiction between the people’s ever-growing demands for a good life on the one hand and unbalanced and insufficient development on the other. To satisfy the people’s yearnings for a good life, we will need to come up with a greater number of S&T innovation achievements that affect the people’s livelihoods. Third, accelerating S&T innovation is necessary for establishing a new development pattern (新发展格局). To give impetus to domestic circulation (大循环), we must insist on supply-side structural reform as the main thread and raise the quality and level of the supply system, using new supply to create new demand. S&T innovation is critical to all of this. The power of S&T will also be needed to open up domestic-international dual circulation (双循环) and to protect the security and stability of the production chain and supply chain. Fourth, accelerating S&T innovation is needed in order to smoothly launch the new journey of comprehensively building a modernized socialist country. S&T modernization has always been an important part of how China achieves modernization, from the time that the “four modernizations”1 were first put forward to the present call to comprehensively build China into a modernized socialist superpower (社会主义现代化强国).
The need for S&T solutions is greater now than at any previous time if we are to develop China’s economy and society and improve the people’s livelihoods. Both set higher demands on strengthening innovation as the primary driving force. At same time, faced with intense international competition and rising unilateralism and protectionism, we must travel an innovation path suited to our national conditions. In particular, we must give even greater prominence to improving original innovation (原始创新) capabilities and strive to achieve even more “zero to one” breakthroughs. I hope that the many scientists and S&T workers will shoulder their historical responsibilities and, with their focus on the cutting edge of global S&T, the main battlefield of the economy, the major needs of our country, and the lives and health of our people, they will continually expand and deepen S&T.