China's COVID-19 fight in numbers: tech innovation as key engine for quality growth

China's technological innovation has become a key engine powering its high-quality growth, as investment and industrial output in the high-tech sector showed extraordinary growth despite the pandemic and global headwinds.

In the first 11 months of 2022, China's fixed-asset investment in the high-tech sector climbed by 19.9 percent from a year earlier, which was 14.6 percentage points higher than the growth rate of fixed-asset investment in all sectors, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.

During the period, China's industrial output of high-tech manufacturing rose 8 percent compared to a year ago, according to the NBS. The output of new-energy vehicles and solar cells increased by 100.5 percent and 44.1 percent year on year, respectively.

From January to November 2022, foreign direct investment in China's high-tech manufacturing and the high-tech service sector respectively surged by 58.8 percent and 23.5 percent year on year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology pledged on Wednesday to accelerate industrial upgrading in 2023 and increase the global competitiveness of Chinese manufacturers in new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and alternative energy vehicles.

China joins the ranks of the world's innovators

China's COVID-19 fight in numbers: tech innovation as key engine for quality growth

The country has joined the ranks of the world's innovators. It moved up to 11th place in the 2022 ranking of the Global Innovation Index, where the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) captures the innovation performance of 132 economies in the survey.

China ranked first among the 36 upper-middle-income economies in the survey and third among the 17 economies in Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania. According to WIPO, it now has the same amount of global top 100 science and technology clusters as the U.S.

The country's expenditure on research and development (R&D) hit 2.79 trillion yuan (about $410 billion) in 2021, ranking second in the world, NBS data showed. From 2016 to 2021, China's R&D expenditure increased by an average of 12.3 percent annually, much higher than the 7.8 percent of the United States.

A focus on higher-quality growth

China has been focused on higher-quality growth with industrial upgrading policies and economy blueprints targeting technological innovation, and these sectors are creating more value for the broader economy, a Bloomberg opinion piece said in November.

The country has made breakthroughs in some core technologies, including lunar and Martian exploration, deep sea and deep earth probes, supercomputers, satellite navigation, quantum information, nuclear power technology, new energy technology, aircraft manufacturing and biomedicine.

China launched the Shenzhou-13, 14 and 15 spacecraft in 2022, making it the third country to operate a permanent space station.

2022 also witnessed the successful launch of China's first domestically designed and built catapult aircraft carrier Fujian, the delivery of China's first domestically developed large passenger aircraft, the C919, and the full operation of the world's second-largest Baihetan hydropower station just after China's Three Gorges Dam.

A series of major technological achievements in 2022 have demonstrated that technological innovation has become a key engine for the virus-hit Chinese economy, said Shao Yu, chief economist of Orient Securities.

Shao noted that the Chinese economy withstood the pressure from global headwinds in 2022, with GDP growing by 4.8 percent year on year in the first quarter, 0.4 percent in the second, 3.9 percent in the third, and possibly 3.8 percent in the fourth. 

"An inverted N-shaped growth curve reflects an extraordinary year of 2022 for the Chinese economy," he said.

(Data edited by Yao Nian; graphics designed by Mukesh Mohanan)

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