Revitalizing China’s development with new productive forces

The Communist Party of China will convene the third plenary session of its 20th Central Committee from July 15 to July 18 in Beijing to discuss the issue of further comprehensively deepening reform and advancing Chinese modernization. Reform and opening-up constitute China’s second revolution, a monumental journey of development and progress for both China and the world. This process has profoundly transformed China and significantly impacted the global landscape. CGTN First Voice has put together a six-part series “To a Brighter Future: China’s Reform and Opening Up in New Era” to delve into China’s achievements in economic, political, social and ecological domains since the reform and opening-up period, exploring the directions and measures for China’s continued comprehensive furthering of reform.
Development remains a perpetual theme in human society, with reform acting as the engine driving this progress. Since its reform and opening-up, China has consistently liberated and advanced its productive forces, creating the remarkable achievement of Chinese modernization. The allure and inspiration of Chinese modernization lie primarily in its unique path, which aligns with contemporary laws and requirements of social productivity development.
China is a latecomer to industrialization and had long lagged behind the West in information technology. Take Huawei for example. In 1987, it was a small company with only a handful of employees, no products and no capital, dealing primarily in telecom equipment trade. Today, Huawei has transformed into a global leader in information and communication technology infrastructure and smart devices, employing more than 207,000 people in over 170 countries and regions and serving over 3 billion people worldwide. This transformation is a testament to China’s burgeoning productive forces and mirrors the explosive growth of Chinese productivity.
Huawei’s dedication to original innovation exemplifies China’s commitment to leading high-quality economic development through new productive forces. Advancing Chinese modernization necessitates the development of new productive forces. Throughout the history of world economic growth, each new productive force – be it steam power, electricity or nuclear energy – has driven economic growth. Today, technological breakthroughs in areas like the Industrial Internet, platform economics, big data and artificial intelligence are forming new industries and, subsequently, new productive forces.
Chinese President Xi Jinping once pointed out that facing fierce global competition, we must open up new areas and new tracks in development and foster new growth drivers and new strengths. By accelerating the formation and development of new productive forces, China can achieve higher-level and broader-scale sci-tech self-reliance and self-strengthening. This is the path for China to seize the initiative in its development and lead the new round of global technological and industrial revolution.
The key to developing new productive forces lies in technological innovation. Scientific discoveries are the source of new productive forces, while technological inventions materialize knowledge into tangible power.
The transition from science to technology and eventual industrial development is often measured by patents. China has been accelerating its patent applications in recent years, reflecting an innovation-driven development approach. In 2021, China surpassed the U.S. in patent applications, becoming the global leader. The country now dominates the field of artificial intelligence patents, far exceeding the United States. According to Stanford University’s 2024 AI Index Report, the share of AI patents originating from China surpassed that from the U.S. since 2013.
Data, as a new production factor, is crucial for forming new productive forces. President Xi Jinping emphasized that in the Internet economy era, data is a new production factor, foundational and strategic, crucial for productivity, and it is necessary for China to build a digital economy with data as the key factor.
China has been optimizing the market allocation of data elements to enhance national computing power. According to the China Commercial Industry Research Institute, China’s data output reached 8.1ZB in 2022, accounting for 10.5 percent of global data production and ranking second worldwide. Vast in volume, the data generated by its population and economic activities position China advantageously in developing new productive forces.
China’s leading market scales in satellite navigation, electronics consumption, e-commerce and mobile payments translate to leading productivity in mobile travel, data interaction, virtual communication, and digital health. This is also a critical factor in China’s status as the world’s largest manufacturing powerhouse, holder of the largest stock of machine equipment units globally, and the owner of one-third of the world’s industrial robots, facilitating the rapid rise of the Industrial Internet.
Energy and materials have historically driven industrial transformation and serve as foundational support in the digital era. Developing new productive forces requires continuous integration of new factors of production into modern development. The development and utilization of new energy are increasingly crucial in economic competition, and China has pioneered new paths and seized a new competitive edge in this regard.
For instance, China’s advances in solid-state batteries, ultra-fast charging, wireless charging, and autonomous driving have significantly enhanced the core competitiveness of Chinese new energy vehicles, driving the industry into a phase of high-quality development. Maintaining a significant lead in battery manufacturing globally, Chinese CATL’s new EV battery – with a warranty of eight years or 800,000 kilometers – has even a longer lifespan than vehicles.
In the international market, China surpassed Japan in 2023 to become the world’s largest automobile exporter. China’s photovoltaic industry also leads the world, occupying more than 70 percent of the global market share.
Innovative allocation of production factors serves as a crucial pathway for developing new productive forces. China has made significant breakthroughs in recent years in this regard. On the one hand, efforts have focused on enhancing systems integration capabilities such as communication, exchange and interaction among data, information, platforms, networks and information subjects. This promotes information collection, data processing, data utilization, digital control and digital interaction, facilitating the integrated development of technologies such as information interaction, gene technology, and ecological technology.
On the other hand, China remains committed to further opening-up, building a high-level socialist market economy, and promoting global division of labor and collaboration more effectively across broader fields and higher levels, thereby forging future spaces for the development of new productive forces.
Take 5G for instance. China leads in 5G construction and patents, with the technology permeating most of its national economy. Approximately 74 major sectors of China’s national economy utilize 5G to enhance productivity. The widespread deployment and use of 5G is not possible without socialism with Chinese characteristics, showcasing China’s political and institutional advantages in advancing Chinese modernization. China’s determination to deepen reform and further opening-up enables it to overcome external resistance and accelerate the development of new productive forces.
The author Hou Weimin is the director and the research fellow at the Research Center of Economic and Social Development of the Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and president of the China Association of Political Economy.

Back to top button