The fourth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), held last October, decided to develop a new type of national system for breakthroughs in core technologies under the conditions of the socialist market economy.

At a meeting held on May 14, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee stressed that China will draw on the strength of the new type of national system to promote science and technology innovation and improve developmental capacity of key links, areas and products.

Sui Jigang, a researcher from the Institutes of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that, differing from the traditional one focusing on government plans, the new type of national system is an innovative institutional arrangement developed under the conditions of a socialist market economy.

Featuring an overall plan and optimized mechanisms of the country, it aims to promote major innovative projects involving modernization through integrated resources and coordinated efforts, in order to improve China's overall competitiveness and ensure national security, Sui explained.

Liang Zheng, professor of the School of Public Policy & Management at Tsinghua University said that, in an environment based on market principles, the new system will be conducive to mobilizing the strengths offered by government, enterprises and society, combining market mechanisms and State guidance, as well as creating synergy between government, industries as well as academic and research institutes.

In a relatively open development environment, the system will help the country achieve strategic goals in a more independent way by integrating resources from home and abroad, Liang said.

However, Long Haibo, a researcher from the Development Research Center of the State Council said the new system is not applicable to all fields of science and technology, but only to core and key technologies mainly related to national security.

In addition, the system attaches more importance to chief scientists than traditional leading groups, he added.

Sui stressed government and the market need to establish a co-operative relationship with well-defined functions.

"The role of government should be given full play in developing top-level design, strategic plans and policies as well as guiding the market. In areas related to long-term development, major interests and security, the government should organize major programs and projects, shape a chain of innovation matching the overall industrial chain, promote resource integration, and leverage the institutional advantages of concentrating efforts for important events and initiatives," Sui said.

"At the same time, the system should allow the market to play a decisive role in the allocation of resources, and secure the dominant position of enterprises in technological innovation," he added.

Liang said the essence of the system is to coordinate the roles of government, market and society—well reflected in the country's efforts for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the resumption of work and production.

In the fight against the virus, China has demonstrated improved efficiency and effectiveness in governance by taking advantage of its institutional strengths.

Since the outbreak, departments of science and technology have swiftly set up an expert group dedicated to scientific research on COVID-19, and identified five priority areas, namely clinical treatment and drugs, testing technology and products, etiology and epidemiology, vaccine development, as well as development of animal testing models.

With the concerted efforts of various research teams, clinical medical workers and frontline institutions, positive progress was made in advancing related scientific and technological breakthroughs within a month after the outbreak.

However, compared with developed countries, China still needs to improve its capacity for development regarding key links, areas and products, with multiple tasks at hand to achieve scientific breakthroughs, Long stressed.

According to Long's explanation, key links refer to high-tech industries with long industrial chains and a sophisticated division of labor; key areas are the ones concerning national science and economic security; key products involve a wider range of sectors and higher technical complexity. The supply of such products, from key materials, core spare parts to complete sets of high-end equipment, is at potential risk of being cut off, he said.

"Long-term efforts are required to make breakthroughs in these areas of weakness." In Long's eyes, the advantage of the new type of national system lies in clear targets, extraordinary abilities of mobilizing resources and efficient innovation collaboration.

Steady efforts need to be focused on a small number of key links, areas and products to effectively improve the overall efficiency of the national innovation system, he said.

Sui shared the same view. "To build a modernized economy and achieve quality growth, it is crucial for China to strengthen the role of scientific and technological innovation in supporting and driving socio-economic development."

In the development of key links, areas and products, he was sure the new system would play an important role in promoting science and technology innovation and breakthroughs.

Content created in partnership with Science and Technology Daily.