National high-tech industrial development zones will continue to be used to make new breakthroughs in core technologies, nurture quality talent, enhance global outreach and support China’s socio-economic development, officials said. National high-tech development zones have been used to boost China’s innovation-driven development strategy. Since 2012, President Xi Jinping has paid over 20 visits to these zones, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST). As of 2022, there are 173 national high-tech development zones, 84 more than in 2012. China has also established 23 indigenous innovation demonstration zones, 20 more than in 2012, that are supported by these high-tech development zones. The gross domestic product (GDP) of high-tech development zones grew from CNY5.4 trillion in 2012 to CNY15.3 trillion in 2021. These zones contributed 13.4% to China’s GDP in 2021 while only using 2.5% of the nation’s construction land.
Wu Jiaxi, Deputy Director of the Ministry’s Department of Research Commercialization and Regional Innovation, said the high-tech zones have proven to be resilient to risks and can achieve growth despite global uncertainties in recent years. From January to July, the 173 national high-tech development zones achieved a gross industrial output worth CNY17.5 trillion, an 8.1% growth compared to the same period last year. This output generated CNY27.4 trillion of revenue, a 7.1% increase over the same period last year. Wu said the Ministry will continue to provide policy support for high-tech zones to achieve stable growth, and encourage investment in key areas such as digital technologies, energy, advanced materials, chemicals and biopharmaceuticals. National high-tech zones are home to 84% of China’s State Key Laboratories and 78% of the national technological innovation centers. As a result, high-tech zones have become a key hub for quality science and technology talent, Wu said.
The Ministry will continue to support high-level talent working in these zones. For instance, the national high-tech zone in Changsha, Hunan province, will invest CNY1 billion over the next three years to attract talent. Small and medium-sized tech companies are key contributors to the growth of national high-tech zones, he said. This will require the Ministry to support these companies with tax breaks, new investments and help them commercialize their scientific and technological output.
The number of national high-tech zones with an annual revenue of more than CNY100 billion has grown from 54 in 2012 to 97 last year. By the end of 2021, national high-tech zones were home to over 4,400 research institutions with over 5.63 million researchers, which was 2.5 times higher than in 2012. The total research and development budget in these zones has more than tripled in the last decade, surpassing the CNY1 trillion milestone in 2021. The number of high-tech companies in national high-tech zones also increased from less than 20,000 in 2012 to 115,000 last year.
With these resources, high-tech zones have made numerous breakthroughs in quantum technologies, high-speed rail, the Beidou satellite navigation system, the C919 passenger jet, 5G telecommunications and other fields. China’s first artificial intelligence chip, first quantum communication satellite, first vaccines for Covid-19 and many other breakthroughs were achieved by scientists and companies working in high-tech zones. Many of these high-tech products are entering foreign markets. The total exports from high-tech zones made up about 3.2% of China’s total exports in 2012 and increased to 24.4% in 2021. More than 47,000 foreign researchers are currently working in these high-tech zones, along with 211,000 Chinese experts who returned home after studying abroad. National high-tech zones had established over 2,200 overseas research institutions by the end of 2021, a 4.6-fold increase compared to 2012, and over 77% of them have implemented policies to support internationalization, the China Daily reports.