Investing in innovation

Updated: 2013-04-11 13:20

By Zhang Monan (China Daily)

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The history of industrial technological innovations shows that high-tech products need enormous inputs of funds, but they usually only enjoy a short life cycle. This decides that developed countries, in the context of global market integration, have to share technological development costs with other countries and embark on an export-oriented road. Increasing exports and expanding their share of overseas markets are effective ways to help them gain a profit proportionate to their research inputs.

China now faces multi-directional and multi-layer international competition in terms of absorbing foreign investment. But the upward global transnational direct investment momentum, rising internationalization of transnational companies and their increased cash-holding volumes mean there are possibilities for a new round of cross-border investment in the future. This, if true, will bring more opportunities for the flow of increased foreign investment to China.

At the same time, China has also become a major market of global high-tech exports. Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce indicate that the value of China's high-tech imports rose to $463 billion in 2011 from $56 billion in 2001, with an average annual growth rate of 23.5 percent. It is estimated that the country's high-tech imports will grow 20 to 40 percent year-on-year in the coming decade, a pace that is expected to help China develop into a base for global industrial transfers and technological research and development. This, undoubtedly, will offer China an opportunity to make great leaps in innovation.

China also enjoys a wide space for more economic openness. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the per capita foreign direct investment absorbed by China has long been below the world's average. In 2011, China's per capita foreign direct investment reached a record high, but it was still only 18 percent of the world's average. The low per capita FDI, however, also means the country still has space for it to expand in the years ahead. While trying to increase its FDI volumes, the country should also work hard to improve the quality of inward foreign investment. For example, it should try to divert foreign investment to manufacturing activities with high added value and expand the openness of domestic services to foreign investors.

Foreign capital should also be used to help facilitate the ongoing industrial transformation in China's booming eastern regions, its bid to promote industrial transfers to less developed central and western regions, help optimize its foreign capital structure and advance its innovation capability.