President Xi Jinping promotes “disruptive innovation”

President Xi Jinping promotes “disruptive innovation”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for efforts to boost “disruptive innovation”, integrate technology with industry, and increase supply chain resilience as he presided over this year’s first Politburo study session. At the meeting of the Chinese Communist Party’s top policymaking body, Xi said China must strengthen scientific and technological innovation – especially “original and disruptive” innovations – as well as achieve scientific and tech self-reliance and “fight the battle in core technologies”. He told Politburo members that innovation should be used to “transform and upgrade traditional industries, cultivate and expand new industries, plan and construct future industries, and improve and modernize the industrial system”, according to state news agency Xinhua. He also stressed the importance of improving the “resilience and security” of supply chains and ensuring that the industrial system is “autonomous and controllable, safe and reliable”.

Xi made the remarks as the 24-member Politburo held its first group study session of the year. Others who spoke at the meeting included Xinjiang Party Secretary Ma Xingrui, Vice Premiers Zhang Guoqing and He Lifeng and Chongqing municipality Party Secretary Yuan Jiajun. Ma is a former aerospace expert and Yuan is a former rocket scientist, while Zhang has a defense industry background. China has repeatedly emphasized tech self-reliance as one of its top policy priorities as the country and its hi-tech ambitions face containment by the U.S. and its allies. Xi has often reiterated the call for technological innovation at high-level meetings. At the Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC) held in December, the country’s leaders called for industrial innovation using “disruptive and cutting-edge technologies” to give rise to “new industries, new modes and new dynamics”, according to a statement released after the conference.

The Politburo holds regular group study sessions, which usually feature a scholar who leads discussion of a topic. But its first session of the new year is typically an internal discussion among the members. At last year’s first Politburo study session, Xi called for “accelerating the establishment of a new pattern of development”, saying this could consolidate the country’s economic foundation and “strengthen the security and stability of development”. “Only by doing so will China be able to better survive, compete, develop and sustain its progress amid all sorts of predictable and unpredictable storms and high winds,” he said. He also told the study session that the country must accelerate efforts to achieve self-reliance in science and technology “to prevent being strangled by foreign countries”.

No such stern wording was repeated in the statement following last week’s meeting. President Xi emphasized “new productive forces”, which he said were necessary for “promoting high-quality development”. “It’s necessary to continue to leverage innovation to speed up the development of new productive forces,” he said. In September, Xi stressed the need for “new productive forces” when chairing a meeting in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, during an inspection tour. He called for “actively fostering new energy, new materials, advanced manufacturing, electronic information and other strategic emerging industries, and actively cultivating future industries”. He also called for greater efforts to revitalize China’s northeastern provinces – the country’s former industrial heartland and bread basket – and urged them to “firmly grasp domestic innovation”, the South China Morning Post reports.

The China Daily adds that President Xi stressed the need to always keep in mind that high-quality development is the fundamental principle for the new era. New productive forces are mainly driven by innovation and characterized by high-technology, high efficiency and high quality, he said. Xi first mentioned the term “new productive forces” during a fact-finding trip to Heilongjiang province in September. In his 2024 New Year address, Xi underscored that new-energy vehicles, lithium batteries and photovoltaic products “are a new testimony to China’s manufacturing prowess”. According to Chinese Customs, the value of the nation’s exports of the three products grew 29.9% year-on-year to CNY1.07 trillion in 2023.

Green development is the underlying part of high-quality development, and new productive forces are essentially green, he said. China must expedite the green transformation of growth models to aid its goal of peaking carbon emissions before 2030 and attaining carbon neutrality before 2060, Xi Jinping stressed. While reaffirming the nation’s commitment to follow a path prioritizing ecological protection and green development, Xi called for steps to build up the green manufacturing sector, develop green services and expand the green energy industry. He also said that reform of the nation’s economic system and sci-tech system must be deepened and a high-standard market system must be established. Xi also mentioned steps to train talent, including fine-tuning the disciplines of the nation’s higher education institutions and improving the income distribution system by incorporating new elements.