A bullet train stops at the platform of Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 26, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhang Chenlin)
by Shamim Zakaria
BEIJING, March 13 (Xinhua) -- During the just-concluded "two sessions," China's national legislature approved a reform plan for State Council institutions, which included the reorganization of the Ministry of Science and Technology, drawing particular attention from the foreign press.
I believe the country's latest move is an effort to bolster its innovation drive and elevate its technological capabilities.
Six years ago, when I first arrived in China, I was instantly captivated by its dynamic and rapidly-evolving innovation scene.
I remember once on a scorching summer day, I found myself yearning for some cold noodles. As I settled down at a restaurant table, I noticed a small placard featuring a QR code.
Curious, I pulled out my phone and scanned it, and to my surprise, a menu popped up on my screen. I could browse the cuisines, select what I wanted, and pay for my meal without ever having to interact with a server. It was like magic!
These ubiquitous QR codes are not just simple black-and-white squares; in China, they are a gateway to a world of convenience.
From paying utility bills to renting a bike, these codes have revolutionized the way we interact with the world around us. Even the smallest of businesses, like a fruit vendor on the street corner, will have a QR code displayed for customers to pay for their purchases with ease.
QR codes represent a microcosm of China's dynamic digital economy that serves as one of the critical catalysts for the country's innovation and progress.
In the past five years, the digital economy has consistently been mentioned in the Chinese government's annual work reports. During this year's "two sessions," the country unveiled a momentous development that it will set up a national data bureau.
China has stressed that in the fierce international competition, to open up new areas and create new drivers for development, scientific and technological innovation is of fundamental significance.
When I sit aboard China's high-speed train and gaze out at the stunning scenery whizzing by, I can't help but marvel at the "China speed." With an intercity railway boasting a maximum speed of 350 kph, it takes just 30 minutes for me to travel a distance of some 120 km from Beijing to Tianjin, two bustling megacities.
Having traveled extensively throughout the world, I can confidently say that China's high-speed rail system is unrivaled by any other country's transportation infrastructure.
From infrastructure development to groundbreaking technologies in a multitude of fields such as manned spaceflight, supercomputers, satellite navigation and airliner manufacturing, high-quality innovation has changed people's lives in ways that were once thought impossible.
SPIRIT OF INNOVATION AS A MISSION
During a visit to a restaurant in Shanghai, I couldn't help but eavesdrop as a group of young engineers huddled together at a nearby table passionately discussing their latest research project, a revolutionary new technology for bionic hands.
Intrigued, I struck up a conversation with the group and was amazed by their level of expertise and dedication. They are driven by a desire to make a positive impact on the world, to create something that will change lives for the better. For them, innovation is not just a job; it is a calling.
This experience was just one of many that I encountered during my time in China as an Indian expat. Over the years, China has made remarkable progress in scientific and technological innovation, moving up to the 11th spot in the 2022 Global Innovation Index.
From the sleek high-speed trains that crisscross the country to the cutting-edge medical treatments that save lives, the commitment to scientific advancement is evident in every corner of the nation.
Also, it goes without saying that Chinese technology companies are among the best practitioners of the spirit of innovation.
Tech giants such as Tencent and Baidu are investing heavily in AI research and development. The country is also home to some of the world's most innovative companies in sectors such as renewable energy, e-commerce, and biotechnology. Chinese companies such as Alibaba, BYD, and Huawei are making waves on the global stage with their innovative products and services.
Over the past decade, the number of high-tech enterprises in China has increased from less than 40,000 to 400,000. Last year, investment in high-tech industries in China surged by 18.9 percent year on year.
Such impressive growth highlights the country's dedication to technological advancement and relentless pursuit of excellence.
KEY TO RAPID ADVANCEMENT IN INNOVATION
As China stands tall as a bastion of innovation, what, one may wonder, is the secret behind the country's meteoric rise in the realm of invention and discovery?
In my opinion, the answer is manifold, stemming from a blend of open markets, enlightened policies, and a steadfast focus on cultivating talent.
First and foremost, China's embrace of an open market has been a game-changer in the field of innovation. By encouraging competition and facilitating the free flow of goods and ideas, the country has created an ecosystem that fosters creativity and ingenuity.
China's policies to encourage innovation have been nothing short of visionary. These policies have paved the way for research and development in cutting-edge technologies, such as AI, robotics and biotechnology, and have provided a clear roadmap for the nation's future innovation endeavors.
The country's relentless focus on talent cultivation has also played a pivotal role in its innovation success. By investing in education, research and development, China has created a bevy of highly skilled and motivated professionals who are leading the charge in innovation.
As the world undergoes constant transformation, it is evident that innovation will continue to play a pivotal role in propelling progress. China, being at the forefront of this revolution, has established itself as a powerhouse of scientific achievements.
Undoubtedly, its impressive accomplishments will leave a lasting impact on the world for years to come. It is a privilege to witness and be a part of this thrilling era of unprecedented innovation and progress. ■