China pledges to attract global talent and venture capital in bid to accelerate technology push

China’s Premier Li Keqiang lays out the governments’ priorities for 2018 in his annual work report delivered to the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 8:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 11:38pm

China has pledged to accelerate its efforts to surpass the US in advanced technologies from artificial intelligence (AI) to robotics by wooing overseas talent and venture capital investment.

The government will do more to implement its innovation-driven development strategy to make the country more “innovative and competitive”, Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual speech at the National People’s Congress, where he laid out the priorities for 2018. Among the tech-related initiatives include the fast-tracking of bringing in overseas talent and more tax incentives for venture capital investment.

Li mentioned the terms “internet Plus” – the strategy of harnessing the internet to upgrade the country’s economy – and “innovation” several times during his speech. “The latest global revolution in science and technology and industrial transformation are trends we must be on board with”, he said.

The pledge comes amid China’s renewed efforts to transform itself from the factory floor of the world into a global innovation powerhouse and echoes President Xi Jinping at the 19th Communist Party Congress, where he listed the internet, big data and AI in his keynote address.

China has set itself a target to become a worldwide AI leader by 2030.

“In the global race of scientific and technological innovation, China has shifted place, from following others to keeping pace and even leading the pack in more areas,” said Li, who as premier heads the State Council, or cabinet.

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In his report, Li listed “high-speed rail, e-commerce, mobile payments and the sharing economy’” as areas that China is leading the world and “manned space flight, deepwater exploration, quantum communication, large aircraft development” where China has made breakthroughs in innovation.

Backed by profits from a huge domestic market and more than 700 million internet users, China’s leading tech companies are expanding overseas, where they are competing with global market leaders for market share and influence.

Baidu and Didi Chuxing, China’s leading autonomous driving and mobility companies, respectively, are competing with the likes of Google’s Waywo and Uber Technologies. Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post, have been expanding their services outside China.

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To spur innovation, China will make more effort in encouraging overseas Chinese students to return after completing their studies, while creating a fast track programme to attract more foreign talent to China, Li said.

“We have no doubt that by bringing together myriad intellects and pooling everyone’s energies, China will break into a sprint innovation”, he said.

The government will also support efforts by leading innovative enterprises to go public and extending pilot preferential tax policies for venture capital investment and angel investment.

Chen Zhilie, chief executive of the Shenzhen-based EVOC Intelligent Technology and a member of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said that China has become a fertile ground for innovation and business venture.

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“Business founders in the United States say that it takes 21 days in Silicon Valley to turn ideas into products, but in Shenzhen it only needs seven days,” Chen said. “As a representative of a Shenzhen-based high tech firm, I feel the China speed innovation in my real experience.”

Over the past five years, China’s investment in research and development has grown at an average annual rate of 11 per cent.

The contribution of technological advances to economic growth has risen from 52.2 per cent to 57.5 per cent, according to the government work report.