On Oct. 16, top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party gathered in Beijing to meet for the 20th Party Congress. The week-long meeting, held every five years, attracts 2,340 delegates from the party to discuss high-level changes and topics, including the nation’s tech developments and strategy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-hour-long report formed the most significant part of the meeting. He reminded delegates that the next five years will be crucial for China to make breakthroughs in “high-quality economic development, achieve greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology, and make major progress in creating a new pattern of development.” 

China has set out a long-term development goal of realizing socialist modernization before 2035. To get there, the party believes that the country needs to develop its tech sector further and bring tech innovation into traditional sectors. 

In his speech, Xi said China needs to build a modernized industrial system that serves the “real” economy, set up a national strategy that helps drive innovation, and ensure new developments are eco-friendly and sustainable. 

Build a modern industrial system

Xi emphasized that a modernized industrial system would be key for the country to achieve “high-quality development” and increasing domestic demands.  

He stated that China needs to advance new industrialization and become stronger in manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, cyberspace, and digital development. His speech also emphasized that China should develop integrated clusters of new growth tech areas, such as next-generation information technology, artificial intelligence, biotech, new energy, new materials, high-end equipment, and green industry. The country also needs to improve its ability to secure the supply of strategic resources, Xi said.

China needs to find ways to make such developments serve the real economy, like integrating modern services with advanced manufacturing and modern agriculture and integrating the digital economy with the real economy, according to Xi. “We must continue to focus on economic development of the real economy when pursuing economic growth and promoting a new type of industrialization,” he said. 

Push an innovation-driven development strategy

Xi acknowledged that China has recorded major achievements in several core tech sectors and growth in cutting-edge areas such as human spaceflight, supercomputers, deep sea exploration, satellite navigation, quantum information, nuclear power technology, large aircraft manufacturing, and biomedicine. Yet China’s tech industry still lacks technological innovation, he said.

He emphasized that China needs to improve its technology innovation system, creating an open innovation system with global competitiveness. He also declared the establishment of a new innovation-driven development strategy, including conducting original, industry-leading scientific research and making China an attractive country for technological innovation as well as a talent center.

The country plans to implement a number of national major scientific and technological projects to enhance the capacity for independent innovation, with hopes of becoming a global innovation leader by 2035. It will also create a “positive environment” conducive to the growth of tech-based small and medium-sized enterprises, Xi said.

According to Xi, innovation is at the “core” of China’s modernization.

Transition to green and low-carbon development

Xi said the country needs to find a development model that also protects the environment, pursuing economic growth while cutting carbon emissions, reducing pollution, expanding green development, protecting ecology, and conserving resources. 

Other major efforts under Beijing’s climate initiative include carefully promoting hydropower facilities given their large environmental impact, actively developing nuclear power safely and orderly, improving the official CO2 emissions calculation tool, and establishing a national carbon trading scheme. In addition, China continues to head toward carbon neutrality by shifting toward green energy vehicles. Xi vowed to promote a low-carbon lifestyle and step up the green revolution in the transportation sector.

In 2021, China’s ambition to become a leader in global climate actions faced major setbacks as operations of heavy industries such as steelmaking experienced a widespread power crunch. At this year’s congress, the central government addressed concerns around economic stability and strength, with Xi saying that China will steadily reach peak carbon and carbon neutrality, implementing control measures “in a planned and step-by-step manner.”

Xi said that the country would continue to speed up the establishment of a clean energy revolution while enhancing the “clean and efficient use of coal,” given its natural resource restraints. The strategy is meant to see a gradual reduction of total emissions as well as carbon intensity, which refers to the amount of energy consumed per unit of economic growth.

The commitment comes months after the central authorities in February extended the deadline for domestic steelmakers to reach peak carbon emissions by five years to 2030 and pledged to correct any “campaign-style” carbon reduction moves by local governments in August. Only a third of China’s provinces and municipalities met their carbon reduction goals during the first half of 2021, leaving as many as 18 regional governments enforcing power rationing and idling operations of energy-consuming industries later in the year.  

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

Cheyenne Dong

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Beijing. She covers e-commerce and retail, blockchain, and Web3. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]technode.com.

Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.