China released on Thursday an ambitious plan to invigorate its scientific research and to make it one of the world's leading science powers, setting a target of 900 billion yuan (111.1 billion U.S. dollars) in annual research and development expenditure by 2020.
Such huge investment will bring China level with the world's big two spenders in scientific research, the United States and Japan.
More than 2,000 leading scientists and strategists took part in drafting the National Guidelines for Medium- and Long-term Plans for Science and Technology Development, which is the first of its kind since China transformed its economy into a market-oriented one.
The National Guidelines said China's total R&D expenditures in 2020 should account for 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is similar to that of developed economies and the scientific powers.
The calculation of the 2020 GDP is based on the GDP of 8.3 trillion yuan in 2000 and a modest estimation of an average annual growth rate of 7.12 percent, which results in 36 trillion yuan, said Dr. Jia Kang, director of the Institute of Fiscal Science, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Finance.
The sustained increase of spending on research and development in the coming 15 years could ensure China is one of the world's most innovative countries. The guidelines also anticipate China becoming the world's leading science power by 2050.
In 2004, China's R&D expenditures took up 1.23 percent of the GDP, which is the highest among all developing countries. Meanwhile, most developed countries spent more than 2 percent of their GDP on scientific research and technological development.
Huge R&D investment will ensure China leads the way in knowledge-based economies in terms of innovation and consequently economic competitiveness, Dr. Jia said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao said earlier this year that China must switch from a resources-dependent to an innovation-driven economy.
According to the guidelines, the government will put its state budgets as well as private funds into 68 priority subjects, 16 state key projects, 27 innovative technologies, 18 basic scientific issues and four big science exploration programs, covering energy resources, agriculture and manufacturing areas, space exploration and research on protein and nanotechnology.
Xu Guanhua, minister of Science and Technology, said, "All of those are strategically important for China to ensure its national and economic security and that it makes giant strides in technology."
"A big economy is not necessarily a powerful economy," Xu said. "China still lacks capability in innovation, particularly in those strategically important areas.
"We would never buy or borrow the key technologies from the global leading economies."
In order to sharpen China's competitiveness, the state has encouraged companies to establish top-notch R&Ds in order to be driving forces in the new-style economy. In return it promises to design new fiscal and taxation policies more conducive to innovation in the coming years.
Ma Junru, a senior strategist who participated in drafting the guidelines, said, "We need to pay the upmost attention to enterprises in order to enhance our overall innovation capability."
By 2020, a number of Chinese enterprises are expected to be firm fixtures in the world's top 500 thanks to their strengths in producing new ideas and products.
Since the 1950s, China has adopted a total of seven medium- and long-term plans for science and technology development. With those plans, China developed atom bombs and man-made satellites, manned spaceships, hybrid rices and high-performance servers.