Analysis of China’s Science and Technology Programmes and Strategies

  • In China’s transition to an innovation-driven growth model, the development of Science and Technology (S&T) programmes and strategies plays a key role.The project investigates how China's S&T system is currently developing and will develop in the future, which topics and programmes are being promoted, and which implications the reorientation of the S&T strategy has for German-Chinese cooperation.
    BMBF, 2015

    Research Questions

    Our research is embedded in the overall framework of the national innovation system (NIS) approach, which focusses on institutions that foster innovation. Based on this approach, our main research questions are as follows: First, we analyse the interplay of actors (such as companies, research institutions, intermediaries and the state) and the design of policies supporting science and technology (S&T) development. For late comer countries such as China the adoption of internationally well established policies and practices represents a challenge due to divergent non-formal institutions (i.e. norms, values, routines) compared to Western countries. In the analysis of China’s new S&T policies, we focus on the incentives offered to government officials, scientists and companies to improve their performance. In this context, we also look at new funding programmes and institutions as well as at interfaces with industrial policy strategies. Second, we study the design and implementation of S&T policies on the local (provincial) government level and how the central government’s new policy approach influences local governments’ policy making. Regional peculiarities and the research and development (R&D) cooperation with foreign companies/research entities are assumed to have an important impact on the local S&T strategies and development.

    Contribution to International Research

    The analysis of China’s S&T policy has become a popular research topic since multinational organisations such as the OECD and the UNESCO began to conduct statistical surveys with the aim to compare innovation performance across countries in the 1980s. These studies focus on S&T funding instruments, the research landscape of countries and statistical indicators to measure innovation performance. With the economic rise of China and the country’s emphasis on a more innovation-driven development path the number of studies on the design and implementation of the ambitious S&T policy agenda has increased. However, recent developments in this field have not been analysed. Our contribution to international research will be twofold: First, by focusing our analysis on S&T policy documents published in 2015 (not translated into foreign languages) we will be able to offer up-to-date information and policy assessment. Second, based on interviews conducted with Chinese stakeholders (government agencies, scientists and intermediaries) and German experts, our research will supply relevant evidence on how China’s NIS is changing and what potential for cooperation exists.

    Research Design and Methods

    In order to answer the above mentioned research questions our research design includes two main areas: 1. The analysis of newly published S&T policy documents will demonstrate the scope and depth of policy changes that the Chinese government wants to bring about. By looking especially at those policies and instruments that offer new individual incentives we can demonstrate whether they have the potential to improve innovation performance or not 2. The degree to which new policies will effectively be implemented in China depends on how they match with existing formal and informal institutions. The analysis of China’s previous S&T development strategies and performance on the one hand and the assessment of the new policies by Chinese and German experts on the other hand, will enable us to give empirical evidence on the viability of China’s S&T policy and resulting prospect for closer bilateral cooperation between China and Germany. Our research methods include secondary data analysis using newly published S&T policy documents and primary data collection through structured in-depth-interviews conducted with Chinese and German experts.

    Preliminary Findings

    In China’s transition to an innovation-driven growth model S&T development plays a key role. This is reflected in both the ambitious reform programme of November 2013 as well as in the upcoming 13th Five-Year-Plan (2016-20). In addition, the government has issued various policies related to the development of specific industries and technologies ("Internet Plus"; "Made in China 2025 "). In order to enhance innovation, the S&T funding system is undergoing profound changes as well. Instead of having about 40 funding agencies, government authorised but independent project management agencies will be introduced. Following this top level design, national key R&D programmes will be consolidated into five funding areas. The overall aim of these policies is to position China as a global leader, not a follower, in global innovation.


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