Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has placed science, technology and innovation (STI) at the center of the national development, regarded innovation as the primary driving force for development, and made holistic and long-term plans for scientific and technological (S&T) development in the country. With the personal guidance and commitment of General Secretary Xi Jinping, a series of major initiatives concerning long-term S&T development have been adopted. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and with the concerted efforts of the science community and the whole society, China’s S&T undertakings have undergone profound historic changes as a whole, and STI has played a significant role in China’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and achieve high-quality development. China’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index rose from 34th in 2012 to 12th in 2021. China has entered a new stage of building up S&T capacity in an effort to build itself into a S&T powerhouse.

Over the past decade, China’s S&T investment has substantially increased, and the gross domestic R&D expenditure has grown from 1.03 trillion yuan to 2.79 trillion yuan, ranking second in the world. The R&D intensity has increased from 1.91% to 2.44%, close to the average level of OECD countries. The basic research expenditure is 3.4 times that of ten years ago, and its share in total R&D expenditure is estimated at 6.09%, hitting a record high. The S&T workforce continues to grow, and the total number of R&D personnel in 2021 stood at 5.62 million, 1.7 times that of 2012, remaining the largest in the world. The number of R&D personnel per 10,000 employees is estimated to increase from 42.6 in 2012 to 75.3. The S&T output has been improving in both quantity and quality. A total of 42,920 highly cited papers were produced in 2021, which was 5.4 times that of 2012, ranking the second in the world. That represented 24.8% of the world’s total, 17.5 percentage points higher than in 2012. The number of invention patents per 10,000 population grew from 3.2 in 2012 to 19.1 in 2021. The number of PCT patent applications increased from 19,000 in 2012 to 69,500 in 2021, ranking the first place in the world for three consecutive years. The technology contract value reached 3.7294 trillion yuan in 2021, which was 5.8 times that of 2012, accounting for 3.26% of GDP.

With “four focuses”, we have put in place a comprehensive STI architecture underpinning development and security on all fronts.

With a focus on exploring global S&T frontiers, China has seen rapid enhancement in the comprehensive scientific research capacity, scoring a number of original outcomes with global influence. We have made notable progress in chemistry, materials, physics, engineering and other disciplines, and achieved major breakthroughs in quantum information, stem cells, brain science and other fields. We have achieved several firsts in the world, including the observation of the three-dimensional quantum Hall effect and the controlled folding of graphene with atomic-level precision, and developed the world’s first heterogeneous fusion brain-like computing chip “Tianji”. The “Chang’e” lunar exploration program, “Zhu Rong” Mars rover and “Xi He” solar observation satellite have embarked on their mission, and Wukong, Mozi, Huiyan, TanSat and other scientific experimental satellites have successfully entered space.

With a focus on serving main economic sectors, the advance of science and technology has injected new impetus into China’s economic and social development. We have helped industries move toward medium-high end with breakthroughs in critical and core technologies. We have boosted the upgrading of manufacturing industry through breakthroughs in high-performance equipment, intelligent robots, additive manufacturing, laser manufacturing and other technologies, and the world’s largest new energy vehicle and new display industries. We have fostered new industries and new business forms with the adoption of emerging and cutting-edge technologies, accelerated the application of super computing, big data, block chain and smart technologies, and boosted the boom of artificial intelligence and digital economy. We have offered better technologies to meet the diverse needs of consumers. New technologies and business models such as mobile payment, telemedicine and online education have transformed our traditional way of life and work.

With a focus on meeting major national needs, we have systemically harnessed science and technology to deliver on major tasks and goals. In support of energy security, we have achieved breakthroughs in deep-sea oil and gas and shale gas exploration technologies, clean and efficient use of coal and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. Guohe No.1 has achieved a transition from second-generation to third-generation pressurized water reactors, and the share of clean energy in total energy consumption rose from 14.5% in 2012 to 25.5% in 2021. In support of food security and rural revitalization, we have focused on the R&D of soil and seed cultivation, and developed new varieties of rice, wheat and corn, with the average grain output increasing from 357 kg per mu in 2012 to 387 kg per mu in 2021. We have achieved important progress in engineering projects, and provide key technological support for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Beijing Daxing International Airport and other major projects.

With a focus on safeguarding people’s life and health, we have harnessed S&T for disease prevention and control and public health. We have mobilized a nationwide effort on COVID-19 research and development, with a focus on five directions, namely clinical treatment and drugs, vaccine research, testing technology and products, viral pathogenesis and epidemiology, and animal model construction, in an effort to fight against the pandemic. We have accelerated the research and development of drugs and medical devices. Through major special projects for the development of new drugs, the number of approved new class-I drugs in China has increased from 5 before 2012 to the current 79, and a number of high-end home-made medical devices, notably the positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance (PET-MR) system, have been put into use.

We have strengthened capacity building and fostered a systematic and strategic S&T force capable of undertaking the national mission. We have improved the systematic layout of innovation entities, so that all the research players could focus on their own areas of expertise and pool their efforts to form greater synergy. Substantive steps have been taken in the development of national laboratories, and steady progress has been made in the reorganization of national key laboratories. The building of a national laboratory system with Chinese characteristics has picked up pace. High-level research universities and national research institutes have continuously improved their research capacity, and their role in basic research, talent development and major S&T breakthroughs has become increasingly prominent. Research institutes are more capable of serving the country’s strategic needs and addressing major S&T challenges. Enterprises hold a more prominent role as the main player of innovation, and the business sector accounts for 76.6% of the country’s total R&D expenditure; the number of high-tech enterprises has increased from 49,000 in 2012 to 330,000, and a number of leading companies with global influence have emerged. In 2021, Chinese enterprises accounted for 30%, 35% and 26% respectively among the top 10, 20 and 50 institutions in PCT patent applications, and 683 enterprises are listed among the top 2,500 global enterprises in R&D investment. The S&T infrastructure has been further enhanced, and major research infrastructure facilities such as the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) and the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF) have laid an important foundation for China to conduct world-class scientific research.

We have vigorously deepened reform and put in place a S&T governance system with Chinese characteristics, which is consistent with the trend of STI progress. The 143 tasks under the implementation program for deepening reform of the S&T system have all been completed. With the revision of the Law on Scientific and Technological Progress, the Law on Promoting the Transformation of Scientific and Technological Achievements, the legal environment for STI progress has been further improved. The establishment of the National Science and Technology Advisory Committee and the National Science and Technology Ethics Committee has resulted in a more effective STI decision-making mechanism. Meanwhile, we have put in place a more efficient administrative mechanism for STI development by establishing a reporting system for S&T programs and a survey system for innovation, reforming and reshaping the management system of national S&T programs, deepening the reform on the management of research funding, and pushing for the delegation of rights to use, dispose of and profit from S&T achievements. Policy environment enabling STI progress is further optimized. We have continued to strengthen the tax incentive policy for enterprises innovation, launched the Science and Technology Innovation Board, the Growth Enterprise Market and the Beijing Stock Exchange to enrich the funding channels for sci-tech enterprises.

We have underscored the role of high-caliber professionals in driving development, and cultivated a large-scale, well-structured and vibrant S&T workforce. We have pushed forward reform in critical areas such as training, evaluation, incentives and bringing-in of S&T professionals, improved research integrity and conduct, gathered the brightest minds from all quarters, rolled out substantive policies and measures with bold reform steps, and constantly improved the system that allows S&T professionals to stand out and put their talent to best use. We have increased support for S&T professionals in major research projects, leveraged major innovation bases to support leading scientists and innovation teams, and instituted a mechanism that enables young talents to stand out among their peers. We have actively promoted international exchange and cooperation among S&T professionals, and continuously improved services for foreign experts. The number of the world’s highly cited scientists from China’s mainland increased from 111 in 2014 to 935 in 2021. With the popularization of science and technology across the country, the proportion of Chinese citizens with scientific literacy rose from 3.27% in 2010 to 10.56% in 2020.

We have stayed committed to openness and innovation, and formed a new pattern of international S&T cooperation spanning across multiple levels and wide-ranging fields. Open cooperation is inherent in the path of innovation with Chinese characteristics. We have strengthened intergovernmental S&T cooperation, established S&T partnerships with 161 countries and regions, signed 115 intergovernmental agreements on S&T cooperation, and joined more than 200 international organizations and multilateral mechanisms. We have actively participated in mega-science programs and projects such as ITER and SKA, and carried out innovation dialogues and S&T partnership programs with various countries. To promote innovation under the Belt and Road framework, we have launched four initiatives: people-to-people exchange, joint laboratory building, technology transfer and science park cooperation. We have conducted joint research with scientists from around the world to address common challenges such as climate change and food security, and made more Chinese contribution to the S&T progress and sustainable development of the world. Looking to the future, China will open wider in its science and technology sector.


Statistics on selected S&T indicators 


Indicators (unit)

Year 2012

Year 2021


Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) (trillion yuan)




R&D Intensity (%)




Basic research expenditure as a ratio of GERD (%)




R&D personnel per 10,000 employees (person years)




PCT patent applications (10,000)




Highly cited papers




High-tech businesses (10,000)




Tech business incubators




Businesses under incubation (10,000)




Technology contract value (trillion yuan)




National high-tech park revenue (trillion yuan)




Global Innovation Index ranking (place)