A New Era of Sci-Tech Innovation




JUST before the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), on September 29, the world’s first trunk line of quantum telecommunication – the Jing-Hu (Beijing-Shanghai) Trunk Line – opened, which is connected with the world’s first quantum satellite “Micius,” named after an ancient Chinese philosopher. Chinese scientists have successfully achieved intercontinental quantum secure communications, preserving China’s leading role in the global competition within the field.


On August, 1 2017, citizens try out VR headsets to experience the application of virtual reality and big data at the “Yuquan big data application industry innovation experience center” in Hohhot, capital city of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.


On the same day, the Lanzhou-Chongqing rail line opened to traffic. The strategic transport trunk line runs from northwest to southwest, linking Gansu and Shaanxi provinces to Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, with most places going through mountainous areas with complex geological conditions.


In 2017, China is presenting the world a new image in a comprehensive and profound way by its growing cutting-edge technologies, technological innovations oriented to people’s wellbeing and innovation friendly environment.


Cutting-edge Achievements


On the eve of the 2017 Chinese New Year, Professor Hu Bingcheng and his team at Nanjing University of Science and Technology announced that they had synthesized the world’s first High-Nitrogen Compound Formed by Cobalt (II) Cation Trapping of aCyclo-N5ˉ anion, a leading technology of synthesizing the new generation of international ultra-high energy materials. Boasting the new material’s high efficiency, environmentally friendly nature and energy-saving characteristics, this technology can be widely used in the fields of military, organic synthesis, catalysis, materials and biology.


On July 29, 2017, a smart robot is seen inspecting the substation equipment in 220kV Huanglishu Substation in Quanjiao County of Chuzhou City, Anhui Province.



In April this year, China launched its first High-throughput Satellite (HTS), whose message capacity is higher than the combined capacity of all of China’s previous communications satellites. While in orbit, the new satellite will undergo tests on its broadband multimedia satellite communications system and the high-speed laser communication technology between the earth and the satellite. The two-way broadband communication can eradicate the network gap in countries like China with vast territories and complex landforms, and provide better Internet access in less-developed regions, especially those areas where wireless network signals and fiber optic cables are inaccessible. Meanwhile, the satellite can provide services such as base station information return, video content distribution, video news collection, enterprise networking, emergency communications, as well as high-speed connectivity services for passengers on airplanes, at sea, and on railways.


Less than one month later, the world’s first light quantum computer was born in China. In just 0.01 seconds it can finish the calculating task that takes a supercomputer 100 years to do.


In mid-May, news came about China’s successful trial exploration of methane hydrate, which is commonly referred to as flammable ice, making China the first in the world with the technology of stable exploitation of this oceanic super energy source. It is a highly efficient and clean energy resource, and commands the strategic height of future global energy development. With two decades of unremitting efforts, China has eventually made this historic breakthrough. As was said in the congratulatory message sent by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, it is “another achievement of the Chinese people in climbing up the world’s sci-tech peaks, and will exert profound impact on the energy production and consumption revolution.”


In June, China successfully launched the world’s first Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), also known as Insight. The telescope expands the vision of humans in cosomological observation, as hard X-ray is more powerful and more energetic than X-ray. The Chinese HXMT combines the functions of hard X-ray and sky survey. Besides its high resolution, high sensitivity and high positioning accuracy, its sky survey function can conduct 360-degree range observation and focus observation on specific areas. In October, Insight discovered a gravitational wave and highlighted its area in the sky, a contribution to mankind’s space exploration.




In September, the world’s first trunk line of quantum telecommunications opened between Beijing and Shanghai, marking the formation of the space and Earth integrated wide-area quantum communication network prototype. From quantum satellite to quantum computer, quantum entanglement and space and Earth information security transmission, the leading quantum communication technology has not only been put into use in people’s daily life, providing communication support for network infrastructures, but also applied in the areas of national defense, finance, and business sectors. It is bound to bring huge changes to the industrial and scientific circles.


Furthermore, a series of world-renowned innovations have emerged in China over the past few months, including the world’s first 25 MeV proton accelerator, the successful test firing of an electromagnetic gun, the launching of a domestically manufactured aircraft carrier, the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the triumphant flight of China’s C919 airliner, the operation of “Fuxing” (Renaissance) class bullet train which boasts a speed of 400 kilometers an hour, the Sunway Taihu Light supercomputer topping the list of the world’s fastest computers for the third year, and the application of iKLYTEK’s artificial intelligent neural network algorithm. All these achievements have made China ascend to the forefront of the world’s science and technology progress.


New Momentum of Development


In a relatively short period, a breathtaking number of scientific and technological achievements have come into the public horizon, including cutting-edge technologies, their application in industry and accomplishments in creating new jobs and markets. These all reflect China’s comprehensive national strength, and add new momentum to its development.


In January 2017, the Chinese government called for the rapid transition from old to new growth drivers and the acceleration of sci-tech research commercialization. After implementating a revised law to promote the transformation of sci-tech achievements, China for the first time promulgated a national plan to establish the technology transition system last September. Then, campaigns such as “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” rolled out on different platforms, adding new momentum to the economic development characterized by new technologies, new industries, new types and new models of business, bolstered by new production factors such as knowledge, technology, information, and data.


Some cutting-edge technological inventions have already entered into the application stage. The global leader in speech synthesis, iKLYTEK’s artificial intelligent neural network algorithm won first prize in the machine reading competition at Stanford University. This technology has been widely used in the fields of education, medical treatment, and legislation. The successful launch of the high-throughput satellite Zhongxing-16 has ushered in a new era of China’s satellite broadband. Meanwhile, China’s C919 airliner will not only boost the growth of China’s aviation manufacturing industry, but also promote the comprehensive development of the aviation industrial chain and relevant industries. The successful exploitation of methane hydrate in the sea launches a new round of natural gas hydrate revolution, and has the potential to shift the world’s energy pattern. It has immense economic and strategic values.


China’s economy is in a period of transformation and upgrade, and sci-tech achievements are widely used in agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries. The key technology system in constructing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge has been further applied. The digital economy based on mobile Internet, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing has flourished. And the “new four great inventions” – high-speed rail, Alipay, bicycle sharing, and online shopping – spearhead the upgrade of traditional industries, and nurture new momentum for economic development.


The year 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of China’s science and technology enterprise incubators. Three decades ago, the first incubator was born in Wuhan, Hubei Province, laying the foundation for China’s sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship and later becoming a national strategy. Currently, the number and scale of China’s sci-tech enterprise incubators rank No.1 globally. They have become the main carrier to promote the transformation of sci-tech achievements and nurture sci-tech oriented medium-size and small enterprises. As of 2016, there were 7,533 business incubator carriers, which included 3,255 incubators, 4,298 maker spaces, and 400-plus enterprise accelerators. They have boosted mass innovation and entrepreneurship in the new era, and accelerated the development of high- and new-tech industries, injecting new impetus into the economy.


The research, development and application of cutting-edge technologies have made China a major player in global tech landscape and dramatically changed the ancient nation.


Innovation-friendly Environment


China’s advancements in science and technology in 2017 benefit from longstanding research in key areas and are a collaborative outcome of reforms to invigorate vitality, policy incentives, and significant funding.


As Wang Zhigang, Party secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, said: “Our work focuses on sci-tech innovation and the innovation of relevant systems and institutions.” New policies have come into force, including reforms on use of sci-tech funds, evaluation of sci-tech outcomes, and assessment of sci-tech programs. This has created a more productive environment for sci-tech research.


The steady increase in financial investment in science and technology is a strong guarantee for China’s sci-tech innovations and programs. In 2016 the national fiscal spending on science and technology exceeded RMB 700 billion. By funding projects in five categories, including key R&D plans, the Natural Science Foundation, innovation of science and technology, specialized research base and high-caliber talent, China has made breakthroughs in a number of core and cutting-edge technologies.


In 2016 China’s total R&D investment reached RMB 1.57 trillion, the world’s second largest. This sum accounted for 2.11 percent of the Chinese GDP, ranking among the largest in developing countries and close to the level of developed countries. Enterprises have become the main force of R&D investment, taking up 77.5 percent of the national total. The number of Chinese sci-tech workers has exceeded 71 million, with 5.35 million in R&D, ranking first in the world. “The Thousand Talents Plan,” “The Ten Thousand Talents Plan” and other major talent projects have helped attract the largest scale of overseas returnees since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.


The year 2017 marks the start of a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics. A slew of industry leading sci-tech achievements and new growth points bred by their commercial applications have lifted the curtain on this new era.


ZHANG YING, holding a doctorate in law and a post-doctorate in economics, is director of the Policy Department of Sci-Tech Fund Supervision Center of the Ministry of Science and Technology, a research fellow, and deputy director of China’s High-tech Industrial Parks Research Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences.