“Vigorously investing in technology innovations” is likely to be the central and dominating ideology for this country in 2019 and beyond.
Whether China is able to achieve 6.3 percent or 6.5 percent GDP growth in 2019 or not, is far less important than the investments in research and development. Technology advances can only be achieved by persistent investments that could pave a solid foundation for future economic expansion.
What the top leadership in Beijing has been suggesting recently is to “hold China’s destiny firmly in our own hands” – implicitly indicating the belief on the part of the policymakers that China should spare no efforts to close its technology gap with developed economies.
That the US government imposed in middle 2018 a supply embargo on Shenzhen-based telecommunications company ZTE that immediately brought the firm’s production to a standstill, effectively bringing the company to its knees, is a thundering alarm bell for all Chinese people. Later ZTE struck a deal with the US to pay a staggering fine of more than $1.4 billion for alleged equipment sales to Iran.
That ZTE case has rubbed the eyes of many Chinese, who now believe that China must build up its own preemptive technology advantages, and very quickly.
A country’s technology strength actually decides its eventual position in the world. German and Japanese-made cars sell well on the global marketplace because of their high quality and fuel efficiency, enabled by their high manufacturing technology levels. So are aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus, semiconductor chips by Samsung and Qualcomm, as well as the high-speed railway systems made by China.
Against the backdrop of the lingering US-China trade war which is inflicting rising pain on both economies, Chinese people now pin their hopes on the technology start-ups in the country, to lead the country up the technology ladder in 2019 and 2020 and for many more years to come.
We also hope policymakers in Beijing to invest more human and monetary resources into promising technology ventures to incentivize and galvanize their progress and development. At the same time, our Chinese consumers need to broadly support this country’s technology companies by placing more domestic products and services on their shopping list in 2019.
In addition to Huawei Technologies, which has grasped a leg up in 5G superfast mobile equipment and is found in 5G smart phones and cloud servers, we really hope that China’s other technology heavyweights – Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu in particular – will stand up and spearhead the next round of innovation investments and breakthroughs.
The three seem to have set their aims on the right targets. Alibaba vowed in 2018 to put its focus on quantum computing and artificial intelligence semiconductor chips, so as to support the company’s rapidly growing cloud and IOT (Internet of Things) businesses. The e-commerce giant said that its first self-developed AI inference chip “Ali NPU” will be ready for market use in the second half of 2019.
Tencent reshaped its business structure in 2018 by establishing a new business group for cloud and smart industries. It is setting up a technology arm to help promote innovations, and also to wean itself off reliance on revenues generated from video games. And, Baidu has recently ratcheted up investments to build up advantages in AI, algorithm, data intelligence and computing power.
The catch-up bid in technology innovations should be the responsibility of all advanced business ventures in the country, be they State-owned, collectively-run or private-owned companies. It is an endeavor that China cannot afford to lose.
There are many role models for Chinese entrepreneurs to follow suit. Dong Mingzhu, chair of home appliances maker GREE Group, has launched a chipset manufacturing plant to help make up for the country’s shortage in advanced semiconductor chips. Dong is to be commended for her ambitions irrespective of whether her attempts are successful or not.