China Amps Up Efforts to Develop Tech Sectors Amid Trade War Pressures

August 9, 2018 Updated: August 9, 2018    

BEIJING—China’s central authorities have revamped a national leadership group charged with planning and studying key technological development strategies, signaling potential policy shifts are underway as the Chinese regime’s technological ambitions have fueled a backlash abroad.

The group, formerly called the “National Technology and Education leadership Group” under China’s cabinet-like State Council, has been renamed without the mention of education to reflect a focus on technology, according to a circular published on the central government’s website on Aug. 8.

The circular said the change was due to “relevant arrangements” as required by work, without elaborating. Premier Li Keqiang, who had chaired the original group since 2013, will lead the renamed body with vice premier Liu He as deputy.

It is unusual for Chinese leader Xi Jinping not to head this group, as he has been appointed top official in charge of several “leadership groups” important to the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda, such as a group for military reform, finance, and “deepened reform.” Overseas Chinese media suggest this may be a sign that there are frictions within the Party that caused Xi to lose control.

Meanwhile, more state assistance for China‘s tech sector would mark the latest in a series of growth-boosting measures being rolled out by Beijing as an escalating trade war with the United States puts more pressure on China‘s already slowing economy.

Under a state-backed industrial policy known as Made in China 2025, China wants to catch up with rivals in sectors including robotics, aerospace, clean-energy cars, and advanced basic materials.

The strategy, unveiled by China‘s State Council in 2015, is at the core of China‘s efforts to move up the value chain and achieve Xi’s vision of turning the country into a global superpower by 2050.

Under the plan, Beijing wants Chinese suppliers to capture 70 percent of market share by 2025 for “basic core components and important basic materials” in strategic industries.

Such a large-scale plan to dominate global supply chains has alarmed the U.S. administration, which targeted Made in China 2025 as evidence that Beijing has systematically stolen intellectual property (IP) for its own interests by guiding Chinese firms to acquire American tech firms; forcing U.S. businesses to transfer technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market; and other schemes. The U.S. trade tariffs are partly a punitive measure against Beijing’s IP theft.

Other members of the revamped leadership group include top officials from more than a dozen ministries and key central government bodies, including central bank head Yi Gang and State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission director Xiao Yaqing.

It was unclear how the member composition was different because the State Council did not publish the notice that announced the former group’s members.

By Yawen Chen & Ryan Woo. Epoch Times staff member Annie Wu contributed to this report.