Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Chinese Version)


middle-technology trap, original technology, basic research, application technology, financial system, venture capital, enterprise reform

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Avoid Middle-technology Trap and Achieve Chinese Path to Modernization


No matter from the perspective of supply chain, industrial chain or value chain, China’s current technology is generally at a middle-technology level. The status quo of Chinese technological development has the following three characteristics. First, there is a lack of original technology, which means technological creation from “0 to 1”. Second, technological development is mainly applied technology. If we measure China’s level of applied technology development from “1 to 10”, China is in the position of “4 to 7” on the scale of “1 to 10”, but lacks the technical level of “8 to 10”. In other words, China’s applied technology development has not yet reached the world’s top level in many fields, and many core technologies and key components are still highly dependent on foreign countries. Third, China has achieved the world’s leading level in some fields of applied technology, but these fields are still in a fragmented state and have not formed a system. Basically, the overall level of China’s technology is far from reaching a comprehensive and systematic strength. The Twentieth National Congress of the Communist Party of China proposed that the goal of the country in the next stage is to achieve high-quality development of the China’s economy. Although the realization of high-quality economic development is driven by many factors, from the experience of world economic history, whether it is the West that first achieved industrialization, or the latecomers that became developed economies, technological upgrading and the resulting industrial upgrading are the key and core for a country to a high-income one. Especially for a large economy like China, it will be difficult to achieve high-quality economic development without technological upgrades. Thus, China not only needs to achieve “8 to 10” technological progress at the level of applied technology, but also need to transform from applied technology to original technology from “0 to 1”. In recent years, my research team and I have studied on how China can achieve high-quality development and upgrade to a developed economy. Through the comparative analysis of developed economies including Europe, the United States, Japan, and Asia’s four Little Dragons, as well as other economies in Latin America and Asia, we have refined a new concept, namely, middle-technology trap which tells us that if an economy wants to upgrade from middle-income to the level of a developed economy, it must avoid the middle-technology trap. An economy can rely on technology diffusion and learning the technology transferred from developed economies in the early stage of its development. However, to achieve the goal of becoming a high-income economy, China not only needs to rely on cultivating original technological innovation from “0 to 1”, but also needs to be able to achieve sustainable technological upgrades in the existing technical field, that is, to continuously move from a level of “4 to 7” or lower on the technical scale to a level “above 8”.

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Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences


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