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China is strengthening its innovation environment

The book Innovation with Chinese Characteristics is a joint project between Sitra and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.


Launch of the book entitled Innovation with Chinese Characteristics

China is known throughout the world as a manufacturer of a wide variety of products. Toys, cars and computers are all made in China efficiently and inexpensively. China’s role in globalisation is, however, changing rapidly. China does not want to solely be a manufacturer of goods and is taking an increasingly active role in high-tech research and innovation activities. This change is discussed in depth in the book Innovation with Chinese Characteristics, High-tech Research in China, a joint project between Sitra and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA). It is edited by Linda Jakobson, Director of FIIA’s China Programme.

The Chinese government has set as its ambitious goal to make China a global power in science and technology by 2050. According to the government’s 15-year plan, China should transform into an innovation-oriented society within fifteen years.

“A goal this ambitious cannot necessarily be achieved in fifteen years,” says Linda Jakobson, who has spent years living in China. “On the one hand, China has several of the drivers in place for China to become a world leader in science and technology. The political elite and the scientific community are strongly committed to the goal. The government is also prepared to allocate substantial funds to research and development. The speed with which China has managed to build high-calibre research and science institutes is phenomenal. On the other hand, China has quite a number of problems to solve before the goal can be achieved, such as the overwhelming bureaucracy stemming from the planned economy era, academic corruption and insufficient enforcement of intellectual property rights.”

Jun Yu, Professor and Associate Director of Beijing Institute of Genomics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes that the rise of Chinese science and technology will take place. However, there are some challenges. “We need more talented people with visions to map out the path toward future S & T. China needs strong and large clusters of research groups and competitive research institutions and universities to host such talent”, Jun Yu says.

The China phenomenon is changing the traditional equilibrium between countries. Western countries are closely monitoring the development of the Chinese innovation environment and policies, because China will be challenging the position of established innovation-intensive countries.

Globalisation should not, however, be seen as the source for competition. Antti Hautamäki, Director of Innovation Research for Sitra, sees great opportunities for collaboration. “The development of the Chinese innovation environment opens up a whole new chapter for collaboration between universities, knowledge centres and enterprises,” says Hautamäki.

Published by Palgrave in Britain, the book discusses the ambitious goals the Chinese government has set in terms of science and technology both on the general level and on the basis of four key disciplines, namely information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology and energy. The authors are leading experts in these fields.

Discussion of this topic will continue at Sitra’s seminar Science Technology and Innovations in Asia on Wednesday 29 August.

Further information

Linda Jakobson, Finnish Institute for International Affairs, tel. +358 50 3747601,
Antti Hautamäki, Sitra, tel. +358 9 618991,

Publication details
Innovation with Chinese Characteristics. High-Tech Research in China. Linda Jakobson (ed.). Palgrave Macmillan 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-230-00692-8