Premier Li Keqiang at a press conference [Photo/Xinhua]

China is increasing investments in science and technology, aiming for self-reliance and to become a global tech power. The finance ministry increased funds for the industrial sector by $1.93bn to support areas such as semiconductors. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) plans to accelerate hard tech infrastructure construction, including AI, 5G, and big data. China aims to consolidate its leading position in electric vehicles and solar panels, and the government is committed to driving innovation with increased funding for local science and tech advancement.

Premier Li Keqiang said in his work report to the opening of the annual meeting of China’s parliament: “Scientific and technological policies should aim at building up our country’s strength and self-reliance in science and technology. The new system for mobilizing resources nationwide should be improved, we should better leverage the role of the government in pooling resources to make key technological breakthroughs and enterprises should be the principal actors in innovation.”

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China’s largest tech companies, such as Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings, were targeted by a long, bruising regulatory crackdown that Beijing says it is now easing. The state planner warned that China’s supply chains faced the risk of numerous bottlenecks and “chokepoints”, saying government would plan and implement a number of major science and technology projects to increase the country’s strength in the “frontiers of international competition”.

China’s tech ambitions

China has been striving to become a global tech power, with President Xi Jinping urging the nation to strengthen its self-reliance in science and technology. Beijing initiated its high-tech industrial development push ‘Made in China 2025’ in 2015, with the goal of producing 40% of chips consumed domestically by 2020, and 70% by 2025. However, as of 2021, domestic microchip consumption was only 16%.

China has also been under increasing pressure from the United States, which has cited national security in restricting access to Chinese semiconductors and artificial intelligence technology. This prompted Chinese president Xi Jinping to talk to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the G20 summit in November 2022, where he emphasized the need for cooperation.

The United States is pressuring the Netherlands to reduce sales of advanced semiconductors and equipment to China, as Eindhoven is home to ASML, the largest producer of chipmaking devices. In January 2023 Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and Minister Hoekstra visited the White House, with ASML being on the agenda. In response to US pressures, China is investing billions of dollars into its tech sector for self-sufficiency.