China’s premier talks up education in a bid to boost innovation

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers his work report during the opening session of the National People’s Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 22, 2020.

LEO RAMIREZ | AFP via Getty Images

BEIJING – As tensions with the US eased, China’s representative emphasized the country’s need to build its own talent.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang addressed reporters on Thursday immediately after the conclusion of a largely symbolic annual parliamentary session.

This year, the so-called Two Sessions officially approved China’s development plan for the next five years – and targets for 2035. The document sets out seven areas of scientific research that Beijing wants to focus on in order to build a technological “self” -confidence . “

Li reiterated the call for the US to work together and not interfere in China’s “internal” affairs, and focused most of his comments on how Beijing wanted to strengthen its own economy.

After emphasizing the need to support scientists in research and development, Li said, “I want to say a few words to young students. Regardless of your future career or ambitions, you need to strengthen your basic learning.” That comes from a CNBC translation of his Mandarin remarks.

That knowledge “goes hand in hand” with innovation, Li said. He also said that this year China is committed to upgrading teacher training in rural areas and that migrant children with urban permits must receive education.

In addition to developing native talent and investing in research, Li said China needs to cooperate with other countries on technology development.

Less details on changes for international business

The comments contrast with Li’s emphasis on attracting foreign companies during the same post-parliamentary meeting with reporters last year.

In a March 5 government labor report and remarks to reporters on Thursday, Li reiterated Beijing’s commitment to further open its market to foreign business and investment. Beijing had rushed to pass a new foreign investment law during the two sessions in 2019, and then pushed ahead with the lifting of restrictions on foreign ownership in large parts of the financial industry.

However, the tone during this year’s parliamentary session was more subdued. Instead, the prime minister’s remarks focused more on the potential of the growing Chinese economy and the state’s efforts to support more than 1.4 billion people.

Li said the government will expand reimbursement programs to improve older people’s access to health care as the country’s aging population creates new business opportunities. He added that the government would improve protection for around 200 million “flexible” workers who do not do traditional, regular-hour jobs.

Given the “very high” pressure on job security, China is aiming to create at least 11 million new urban jobs. The country has set itself the goal of achieving GDP growth of over 6% this year and increasing spending on research and development by at least 7% annually over the next five years.

On Thursday, Li expressed confidence that China could find talent to lead this research – and stressed that everyone in the country can contribute to national efforts to promote innovation.

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