Chen gained national fame during the Covid pandemic as a leading scientist that led China’s vaccine development efforts. In her speech, she called for more resources for China’s tech innovation, particularly in the biotech field.
Chen summarized China’s disadvantages in biotechnology innovation as
Lacking top-level design and scientific coordination, unconsolidated research forces, unsound long-term support mechanism, shaky basic research, insufficient hardware, and underdeveloped rapid response system.
She then laid out 4 recommendations:
Establishing “white list” system for major science research projects related to national security. Fully take advantage of new model whole-of-country approach, promote the optimal allocation of scientific research forces and resource sharing, systematically plan the layout of major projects in major frontier areas such as life and health technology and biosecurity, amont others. Establish a "white list" for core technology teams, and committ long-term stable national investment to achieve the organic integration of "project - base - talent". This white list method could lay a sound scientific foundation for the protection of national development interests, eliminating major security risks, and breaking through foreign technological blockade.
Constructing a National Technology Innovation Center for Special Needs Vaccines. The Ministry of Science and Technology has issued the "General Plan for Promoting the Construction of National Technological Innovation Center (Provisional)", which contains language for the construction of several national technological innovation centers during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. I’d recommend building a National Technology Innovation Center for Special Needs Vaccines, focusing on the major needs of national biosecurity defense, taking stock of "chokepoint" technologies and strong point technologies, strengthening top-level design and scientific coordination, carrying out cooperation between military and civil departments, different fields and disciplines, in order to achieve "have to know-how for known technologies, and have the ability to discover unknown technologies" and promote national biosecurity and social stability.
Continuously carry out scientific research on the prevention and control of Covid-19. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, China's Covid epidemic has been fully controlled. But from a global perspective, the picture is much more complicated, therefore there should not be any slackening of the prevention and control measures. China should continue to increase scientific research efforts, the integrated use of biotechnology and big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other innovative means to further clarify the origin of the virus, animal hosts and pathogenic mechanisms, carry out in-depth analysis of the impact of virus mutations on existing prevention and control measures, proactively to carry out pre-research for important mutant strains of vaccines, nucleic acids and antibody detection reagents, and make timely updates when necessary.
Fourth, to create a good research ecology dedicated to basic research. Vigorously promote the spirit of scientists, and strive to create a good innovation ecology conducive to basic research. Offer more support to those who work in basic research away from the spotlight in project research, platform construction, and talent programs. Inspire everyone to explore, without distractions to focus on the frontier, accomplish more breakthroughs from 0 to 1. Encourage more young talents to be indifferent to fame and fortune, to be innovative, to devote themselves to scientific research, and to play a supporting role in scientific innovation for a better future for our country!
As context, your host would just point to the remarks Chinese premier Li Keqiang made during the closing of the NPC, in which he echoed Chen’s opinion and touched on potential policy changes that can better incentivize scientists.
Over the years, China has made some major breakthroughs in the field of science and technology innovation. The field of applied innovation has also developed rapidly, but there is indeed a shortage in the field of basic research. To build a strong country in science and technology and enhance the ability of scientific and technological innovation, we must lay a solid foundation of basic research and applied basic research. The height of a building depends on the depth of the foundation, We must not rush, but go one step at a time.
At present, Chinese society’s investment in research and development as a proportion of GDP is not high, especially basic research investment only accounts for 6% of the investment in research and development, while developed countries are usually 15% to 25%. Our next step to increase investment in basic research, but also continue to reform the science and technology system. Let researchers have the autonomy, particularly the autonomy of disposing research funds. Researchers should not be mired with filling out forms, evaluation and other matters, but rather devote their full energy to research. The development comes from a sound foundation. Speaking of this, I would like to say a few words to the young students, no matter what career you will be engaged in, what kind of ambition you have, you must pay attention to strengthen the basic knowledge learning. Building solid basic skills and cultivate the ability to innovate is not contrary but a parallel.
Huang’s main point was to preserve China’s food security. Namely, to make sure that China can feed its population under any scenario.
Huang makes four recommendations, make sure China has enough farmland, innovate China’s seed technology, incentivize farming and reduce grain spoilage:
It is recommended to improve legislation, and strictly enforce laws to curb unlawful occupancy of arable land and the de-agriculturalization of arable land, and firmly guard the red line of maintaining at least 1.8 billion mu (appr. 300 mln acres) of farmland……It is recommended to strengthen scientific innovation to improve arable land quality, construction of scientific and technological platforms to promote arable land protection and utilization, and set up major R&D projects to provide effective scientific and technological support for the rational use of arable land and ground strength improvement.
Set up major special projects at the national level, pool resources, integrate forces, strengthen the basic research of breeding, as soon as possible to achieve breakthroughs in "chokepoint" technologies.
Improve the compensation mechanism for main grain-producing areas, increase the transfer of payments, reward large grain-producing provinces, cities, and counties according to grain production and output, encourage greater land transfer, the development of moderate scale operations, support the development of food processing industry, so that they have financial income, economic development, and the will to grow more grain.
Further improve modern grain reserve infrastructure system, optimize utilization, maintenance and renovation and upgrading efforts, and continue to promote the construction of smart storage to reduce losses caused by temperature and humidity, rodent and insect damage. Promote low-temperature refrigeration technology in key grain output provinces so that the storage period of wheat and rice be extended from 5 and 3 years, respectively, to 10 and 5 years.
It’s fitting for Huang, who represents Heilongjiang province, to call for more attention to improving farming in China, as Heilongjiang has some of China’s most fertile land and produces some of China’s most prized rice.
Due to China’s history, which is marred by famine, the Chinese society places great emphasis on making sure that it produces enough grain to feed the entire population.
Your host would also point to the second recommendation by Huang, which stresses the importance of innovating China’s seed technology, as the concept of seed security is gaining more traction.
"No. 1 central document" for 2021, released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, stated that China shall “win the battle of the seed industry and overtake others” (打好种业翻身仗).
Also on this front, China is to finish building crop seed bank this year (Xinhua English story here).
Though Ma is the head of Sinopec, one of China’s main fossil fuel suppliers, his speech very much focuses on non-fossil fuel energy, which he argues China will need to rely on in order to achieve better energy independence.
Ma described China’s disadvantages in the energy sector as follows:
Fossil fuel makes up too much of China’s energy consumption. In 2020, coal makes up 56.7% of China’s energy source, while petroleum and natural gas make up 19.1% and 8.5% respectively. Nonfossile fuel energy makes up 15.7%.
Over-dependence on foreign fossil fuel. In 2020, foreign petroleum and natural gas make up 73% and 43% of all Chinese consumption.
A mismatch between the energy-producing regions and the major energy-consuming regions. China’s energy is mostly generated in the north, northwest, and southwest, while the biggest energy-consuming region lies in the southeast.
Technological shortfalls. China still relies on foreign know-how in regards to core tech and equipment, which puts China in face of “choking point” risks.
To tackle the problems, Ma called for 4 initiatives, your host will paraphrase his words here to avoid confusing you with tedious official language.
First, prioritize conservation and improve energy efficiency. Ma called for more energy-efficient equipment to be used, create economic incentives for energy conservation, and promote “a culture of energy conservation.”
Second, optimize China’s energy consumption structure. Ma called for faster development of non-fossil energy, and establish a diverse energy supply of coal, petroleum, natural gas, nuclear, new energy, and renewable energy. By the year 2025, non-fossil energy should make up the majority of recremental consumption.
Ma particularly raised the lessons learned from the wind and solar energy industries, saying that an overarching strategy should be developed and a regulatory regime implemented, to avoid disorderly investment and underachieving results.
Ma also emphasized the development of hydrogen energy, especially accelerate the production of hydrogen by electrolysis, and better utilize China’s geothermal energy. Ma also mentioned the development of shale oil and gas, coal-bed methane.
Third, Ma called for technology innovation, recommending policy support for innovations in the sectors of hydrogen production, oil and gas exploration, and development, clean and efficient utilization of coal, smart grid operation, distributed energy construction.
Forth, enhancing international cooperation, expanding sources of energy to satisfy Chinese demand. Ma recommended a series of overseas energy bases be built, especially in Belt and Road countries, to ensure energy can be reliably purchased and shipped. Ma also said China should try to improve its bargaining power in the global energy market as a major energy consumer.
Wei hailed the accomplishment of China’s anti-poverty campaign, which saw the successful eradication of extreme poverty in China.
Wei said she belonged to Mao’nan ethnic group, and suffered from poverty when she was little. She recounted her first-person point of view in witnessing the living standard of those around her gradually raise in recent years.
She noted that to elevate communities out of poverty, the Chinese government sponsored road projects, clean water pipelines, schools, and medical facilities, and helped communities find industries that could sustain their livelihood.
Liu is a celebrated TV series director known for his works depicting the everyday lives of ordinary people, most set in Beijing.
Your host has watched some of his work and if there will one-day be a newsletter on must-watch Chinese TV dramas for China watchers as Zichen Wang suggested, Liu’s work will highly likely be included.
Arts, or especially cinematics, has always played a key role in the Chinese government’s outreaching effort to the public. The Chinese government and the CPC routinely commission TV dramas or movies that reflect China’s achievements.
But, as some would argue, government-backed cinematic projects have been losing the acclaim that they once enjoyed, and there is a sense of urgency for movie makers or TV drama directors to come up with better quality work to fulfill the role.
According to Liu, the industry must maintain cultural confidence, focus on themes with real-life implications, immerse itself among the mass, and hone its artistic technique, in order to excel in producing quality work that could “promote righteous values” in society.
This newsletter is penned by Yang Liu.