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

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

LEO RAMIREZ | AFP via Getty Materializations

BEIJING — As tensions with the U.S. simmer, China’s second-in-command emphasized the country’s need to build up its own talent.

Chinese Head of state Li Keqiang was addressing reporters Thursday immediately after the close of a largely symbolic annual parliamentary meeting.

This year, the supposed Two Sessions officially approved China’s development plan for the next five years — and goals for the year 2035. The chronicle lays out seven areas of scientific research that Beijing plans to focus on in an effort to build technological “self-reliance.”

Li repeated calls for the U.S. to cooperate and not interfere with China’s “internal” affairs, and focused most of his comments on how Beijing intended to reinforce its own economy.

After stressing the need to support scientists in research and development, Li said, “I want to say a few words to young schoolgirls. Regardless of what your future career or ambitions are, you must strengthen your learning of basic knowledge.” That’s contract to a CNBC translation of his Mandarin-language remarks.

This knowledge “goes hand in hand” with innovation, Li said. He also rumoured this year, China is determined to improve training of teachers in rural areas, and migrant children with urban residing permits must receive an education.

In addition to domestic talent development and investment in research, Li said China needed to join forces with other countries on technological development.

Fewer details on changes for foreign business

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

In a government commission report delivered March 5 and his remarks to reporters Thursday, Li repeated Beijing’s commitment to open its market further to unassimilable businesses and investment. Beijing had rushed to pass a new foreign investment law during the Two Sessions in 2019, and subsequently pushed in the lead with removing foreign ownership limits in major parts of the financial industry.

But the tone during this year’s conforming meeting was more subdued. Instead, the premier’s remarks focused more on the potential from China’s growing briefness and the state’s efforts to support over 1.4 billion people.

Li said the government would expand reimbursement programs to upgrade the elderly’s access to health care, while noting the country’s aging population creates new business opportunities. He go on increased the government would improve protection for some 200 million “flexible” workers who don’t hold traditional jobs with everyday working hours.

In the face of “very high” pressure on ensuring employment, China aims to create at least 11 million new urban projects. The country has set a target of over 6% GDP growth this year, and a goal of increasing spending on research and development by at least 7% annually in the next five years.

On Thursday, Li rebel a confident tone in China’s ability to find talent to lead that research — and emphasized that anyone in the homeland could contribute to the national effort to promote innovation.

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