Updated: 2010-12-10 10:31
By Andrew Moody, Yan Yiqi and Yang Yang (China Daily European Weekly)
After decades of being followers of technology, Chinese companies are beginning to move to potential leadership
Are China's technology giants set to bestride the world? The country may not be about to resume the position it enjoyed 600 years ago when it led the world in mathematics, physics and the production of ceramics. But unprecedented spending in research and development in recent years is bringing major results.
China's investment in this area nearly doubled from 34 billion euros in 2006 to 65.7 billion euros last year, according to the Paris-based OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).
Spending on innovation is now growing at a staggering 25.5 percent a year, compared to a fall of 4 percent in the United States last year. Growth in major European countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom, remains in single figures.
The investment is producing breakthroughs in a number of areas. Earlier this month, China's newest fast train, designed and built by CSR Qingdao Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co Ltd, set a world record of 486.1 kmh on the Beijing-Shanghai line.
In October, China overtook the US to have the world's fastest super computer. Developed by the National University of Defense Technology, the Tianhe-1A, can do 2,507 trillion calculations each second and is 29 million times faster than the earliest supercomputers built in 1976.
China is also making advances in space. Chang'e 2, the country's second lunar probe, last month sent back high-resolution pictures, which will be a marker for a first unmanned moon landing in 2013. Space program chiefs are targeting a manned moon-based space station by 2020.
BYD Auto, the Shenzhen-based automotive company in which US investor Warren Buffett has a stake, aims to become a world leader in electric cars.
Also a leading battery maker, it has already launched two models, the e6 SUV version and the F3DM sedan with China, aiming to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. Aviation is an area where China also wants to make a mark. State-owned COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) announced in November the first orders for its C919 passenger plane and aims to take on both Airbus and Boeing.
With sustainable development a priority in the government's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), China is likely to lead the world in the development of new energy, pushing the frontiers in the hydro, solar and wind power sectors.
The yuan is likely to be fully convertible and on the way to being one of the world's major currencies by 2020.
More sophisticated Chinese consumers are surfing for luxury products on the Internet and a number of branded labels are ready to ride the wave.
An anti-smoking watchdog has criticized Chinese authorities for "making little progress" on enforcing tobacco controls.
Traugott Kaminski claims he was the first person to bring the yacht culture to China seven years ago.