Note: The following article is taken from the Chinese-language "Commentaries on International Affairs".
China's Premier Li Keqiang has once again stressed that the country will be able to keep its economic growth within a reasonable range this year and continue to achieve high-quality development. The pledge, made on Friday at the press conference held after the annual session of the country's top legislature, came as the government continues China's transition to a more innovation-driven growth model.
The premier's promise is underpinned by a slew of new measures. These include the new Foreign Investment Law that passed the National People's Congress on Friday, a bigger-than-expected tax and fee reduction plan that lightens the financial burden on enterprises, and a plan to create more than 11 million new urban jobs.
Premier Li Keqiang meets the press after the conclusion of the second session of the 13th National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Friday, March 15, 2019. [Photo: Xinhua]
The government has also made it a priority to support industry sectors working on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. By doing so, they aim to give a further push to encourage industrial upgrades, which in turn will generate new opportunities in China for technology-related multinationals. More than 20 provinces have already published policies to support the growth of the AI technology industry. China is home to the second-largest market of AI companies – nearly 1,500 last year. And official figures show that China's AI industries were worth 68 billion yuan (around 10 billion U.S. dollars) at the end of last year. And that's to say nothing of China's already-booming digital economy sector, which analysts at IDG estimate will be worth 8.5 trillion U.S. dollars by 2021.
Behind the progress in cutting-edge technologies like AI are the government's massive investments in research and development. Official data shows that the country's input into R&D reached nearly 300 billion U.S. dollars last year, up more than 10 percent on the investment made in 2017.
The fruits of this investment can be seen in the growing number of patents related to AI technology. The World Intellectual Property Organization released its first report on AI patents in January. The number of AI-related patents lodged by applicants in China has increased rapidly over the past decade, overtaking both the United States and Japan, who dominated this sector from 1950 through to 2016. A recent article carried by the Nikkei Asian Review said that companies in China have surged ahead of their American counterparts on a Nikkei ranking of the top 50 patent filers for AI technologies. China had more than double the number of companies in the top 50 – from eight to 19 – than it did three years ago, Meanwhile, the United States only had 12 companies in the top 50 – down from 19 in the previous ranking.
At Friday's press conference, Premier Li Keqiang emphasized that the government is sticking with an inclusive and prudent approach when it comes to fostering new industries and new business models. It is committed to promoting fair access and supervision, and providing entrepreneurs with both room for growth and an environment that encourages it. This is why investors with long-term vision will continue to see China as an opportunity for high-quality development.