Vice Premier Han Zheng said in his speech at the China Development Forum that China aims to build an innovation-driven economy. It's a vision that's gradually becoming reality with the help of tech companies specializing in new industries, from genomics to robotics. Our reporter Ge Yunfei went to southern China to witness the change.
No longer satisfied with being the world's factory, today's China aims to become an innovation powerhouse. And the country has delivered part of its promise in the tech hub of Shenzhen. BGI, headquartered in the southern city, is the world's largest center for genomics, the science of mapping and editing genomes. The institute provides over half of the world's genomics data and research output, more than the total of Britain and the US – the two other leading countries in the field.
DU YUTAO VICE PRESIDENT, BGI GENOMICS "In 1999, China had little knowledge of this sector. We had to follow in the footsteps of other countries. But we gradually caught up, and now China is definitely a pioneer in genomics research."
In Guangzhou, another southern city, young engineers are trying to make the biggest change to the aviation industry since the era of the Wright Brothers. The world's first passenger drone, the EHang 184, made its first public flight in February. All passengers need to do is get into the small cabin and fasten their seat belts. The automated flight system takes over from there.
HU HUAZHI CEO, EHANG "Traditional flying vehicles cannot achieve the goal of fully autonomous flying, so it's still far from being used in daily commuting. But today's flight means the scenes that we used to see only in sci-fi movies are now very close to ordinary people."
The drone's maker EHang says the vehicle runs on electric batteries. It can carry one person weighing up to 100 kilograms at a time. The drone can cruise at an altitude of 500 meters, fly at a maximum speed of 100 kilometers per hour, and run up to 64 kilometers on a single charge.
GE YUNFEI GUANGZHOU "Wow, it's an insanely amazing ride. I'm really a bad singer, but now all I want to do is to sing I believe I can fly."
For startup entrepreneurs, China now offers better opportunities to turn innovative ideas into reality, especially in hardware-related industries.
WANG JIANJUN CEO, MAKEBLOCK "In the previous era of internet start-ups, many Chinese companies modeled their businesses after their Silicon Valley counterparts. So in the internet era, Sillion Valley was the leader. But in the next era of hardware, China could be the front-runner. We're working on a new type of education using robotics."
The brightest star in this wave of hardware startups, Shenzhen's DJI is the world's largest drone maker. Its president believes that if China wants to go further, it has to invest more in something basic.
ROGER LUO PRESIDENT, DJI "Nowadays, China's e-commerce and online payment industries play a vital role in the world. In these areas, Chinese companies are as good as their American counterparts. But I think China needs to invest more in basic science education. It is the key for China to go further and achieve more in the future.
At this year's National People's Congress, China vowed yet again to build an innovation-driven economy. Step by step, the country is turning words into reality. Ge Yunfei, CGTN, Guangzhou.