Premier Li Keqiang said China should give more freedom to innovative and creative talent, so that its demographic bonus can be transformed into “talent bonus.”
Li made the comments at a meeting on Aug 21 which was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the China National Funds for Distinguished Young Scientists.
He emphasized that China should tap into its labor force to nurture more talent so that the country can maintain growth, instead of relying on its demographic bonus.
“Comrade Deng Xiaoping said that science and technology constitute the primary productive force - which depends on the country’s people, and people are thus the most important factor of this productive force,” said Li.
“We must admit that - to a large extent - China’s great achievements over the past 30 years are due to the country’s demographic bonus. In other words, growth is a result of the hard work of the Chinese people,” he said.
However, China has become a middle-income country, and its labor force is increasingly expensive, which means that it is likely that China cannot continue to depend on its “demographic bonus” to maintain growth, he added.
“If our 800 million workers upgrade their skills, and the percentage of medium-and high-skilled workers increases significantly - how will this affect our socio-economic development?” said Li.
“Ultimately, we should release as much ‘talent bonus’ as possible to maintain China’s healthy growth and avoid the middle-income trap.”
Chen Zhu, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress - and also one of the first scientists sponsored by the China National Funds for Distinguished Young Scientists - said he hoped the country will improve its methods to cultivate its best and brightest.
Li agreed, saying the government will invest more to nurture and develop talent.
Pan Jianwei, vice-president of the University of Science and Technology of China, said the funds allowed him to start research on quantum teleportation without having to go through a complicated process to receive sponsorship.
Li said recipients of the funds are selected after a process of peer review, and the young scientists who receive sponsorship are given sufficient freedom concerning their research.
He also said that China should abolish its system that imposes unnecessary reviews or appraisals of talent, and encourage them to be innovative and creative.
He added that innovation should permeate the whole of society and
- in addition to government investment - companies and market forces should also play a more important role in pushing innovation.
Li emphasized that the development of science and technology in China should become a productive force and boost the development of the country’s economy and the whole of society.
He said 60 percent of China’s exports are from trade processing industries - mainly OEM business (original equipment manufacturer) - which often involves activities of low added value.
“In other words, we do not own the retail channels, core technology, or the components - we offer manual labor and hard work,” he said. “And the outstanding performance of Chinese imports and exports over the past few decades is due to our hard work.”
Li also said China’s products and services should be supported by technology if the country wishes to transform its growth pattern, and scientists and companies should work together to nurture talent, and help increase the country’s wealth and improve people’s livelihood.
He also commended scientists who focus on basic research, saying that the country requires talent in the fields of both applied sciences and basic research.
He specifically asked older scientists to nurture younger talent.
After five scheduled speeches, Li encouraged scientists to share their thoughts and opinions.
A few of the participating scientists suggested that the national government should offer more funding for social sciences, give more support to basic research - that requires more time to see any benefits - and that universities should recruit talent based on their abilities rather than placing too much emphasis on recruiting those who have studied abroad.
Li listened to the suggestions and discussed the issues with the participants.