BEIJING — China’s economy has been optimized in both growth and structure guided by the five development concepts of innovation, coordination, greening, opening up and inclusiveness, according to economists.
“During the past five years, China has achieved tremendous results in economic and social development by adhering to these new concepts,” said Xing Zhihong, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics.
The country has made progress in reforms and adapted to the “new normal” of lower yet sustainable and balanced growth rates.
FROM IMITATOR TO INNOVATOR
With innovation at the core of the new development strategy, China, once seen as an imitator churning out mountains of cheap, low-quality goods, has become a source of creative products and ideas.
From its quantum satellite to shared bicycles and mobile wallets, Chinese technology has drawn global attention.
“Innovation has played a bigger role in leading and boosting economic and social development,” said Li Yunlong, a professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
China moved up the list of the world’s top 25 innovative economies, rising three notches from 25 to 22, according to a key innovation index released in June by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University and INSEAD.
The country was top in a number of sub-rankings, including domestic market scale, human resources, patents by origin, high-tech exports, and industrial design by origin.
Policy makers are steering the economy onto an innovation-driven growth path, encouraging an entrepreneurial wave, initiating reforms in research and development (R&D), and rolling out the “Internet Plus” and “Made in China 2025” plans.
About 1.57 trillion yuan (over $230 billion) was spent on R&D in 2016 after a double-digit average annual increase over the past five years, making it second in R&D spending after the United States. Thanks to its big spending, China now ranks second in scientific papers worldwide and is third after the United States and Japan in joining the “million patent club.”
China aims to become an “innovative nation” by 2020, an international leader in innovation by 2030, and a world powerhouse of scientific and technological innovation by 2050.
After decades of rapid expansion brought smog and contaminated soil, China is swiftly and steadily shifting from GDP obsession to a balanced growth philosophy that puts more emphasis on the environment.
More energy has been channeled into cleaning up the economy, which had long been powered by polluting heavy industries. Stricter rules were imposed on both factories and officials, and violations received tougher penalties.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection on Aug 7 announced a new round of inspections on local environmental protection efforts covering eight provincial-level areas, the latest in its nationwide campaign to curb pollution.
During last year’s inspections, almost 6,500 officials were held accountable for negligence or malpractice.
Ecological development has become a major task in the country’s overall plan and has been reiterated in key official documents and high-level meetings in recent years.
Measures have been rolled out to control pollution and set the direction for a green path. The harshest-ever environmental protection law was passed, and a “river chief” system was introduced to purify the water. The government decided to draw “red lines” in certain regions to strengthen protection.
The effort has paid off. The average annual density of fine air particulate matter, or PM 2.5, often used as a gauge for air pollution, dropped by 33 percent in 2016 in the Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region compared with 2013. Water and soil conditions also improved.
OPENING WIDER TO THE WORLD
China has accelerated the opening of its financial markets to spur economic growth, raise financial sector competitiveness and actively participate in the global market.
Overseas investors gained direct access to the Chinese mainland’s $10 trillion bond market with the launch of the Bond Connect in Hong Kong in July.
This move came after stock connect programs between mainland and Hong Kong bourses were established.
“The Bond Connect is conducive to the internationalization of the mainland’s financial market and is a driving force for its financial opening up,” said Dong Yuping at the Institute of Finance and Banking at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
In addition, the introduction of foreign banks to the domestic market and attempts by China’s financial institutions to go global were also positive steps in developing the financial sector and building a free and open capital market.
“Opening up helps to build a strong and competitive financial sector in China,” said Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, at the Lujiazui Financial Forum 2017 in June.
By introducing the five major development concepts and highlighting supply-side structural reform, China has chosen a correct path in improving its growth quality, according to Guo Shengxiang, dean of the Academy of APEC Creative Finance, an Australian think tank.