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China kicks off innovation week amid sluggish economy

2015-10-19 21:28

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3D printers, electric cars that can be charged while driving and robots that can play badminton and perform traditional shadow show. These fancy products, and more, on display in eight Chinese cities are attracting swarms of spectators.

Mass entrepreneurship and innovation week kicked off on Monday in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xi'an, Chengdu, Hefei and Shenyang.

During the week, the cities will hold competitions and forums for "makers", those do-it-yourself inventors and craftsmen, as well as entrepreneurs and investors.

Xie Jiangbing is an entrepreneur. He is showcasing his product at Zhongguancun Science Park in Beijing. Seeing the potential for artificial crystals, Xie returned to China in 2010 after quitting his job at a Fortune 500 company in the United States.

He set up Eyebright in 2014, and has sold his products to many domestic hospitals, replacing suppliers with imported products. "While I was in college in 1992, China was experiencing a wave of entrepreneur activity," he recalled.

"Now we are riding a new wave with even more opportunities." In Zhongguancun, a major high-tech zone in Beijing, 19,000 firms were established in the first five months of the year, 200 percent growth from the average posted in the past few years.

Starts-ups based on mobile Internet and new technology are mushrooming and reshaping people's lives in China. These activities are becoming a new growth engine, as they generate more jobs and inspire creativity, said Meng Xiantang, an official with the National Development and Reform Commission.

Zhang Zhihong, an official with the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the mass entrepreneurship and innovation drive was of utmost amid a sluggish economy.

Data released Monday showed that in the January-September period, the high-tech sector reported 10.4 percent growth in value-added output, 4.2 percentage points higher than the figure for the whole industrial sector.

In the government work report released in March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang identified mass entrepreneurship and innovation as a new engine for economic growth. In the following months, both central and local governments have unveiled a spate of policies to support the drive, including tax cuts, subsidies and funding.

The wave of high-tech start-ups in the most-populous country is also attracting the attention of overseas investors. Eneko Santiago, a venture capital investor from Silicon Valley, said every time he came back from China, he would tell entrepreneurs in
Silicon Valley that China was now has more advanced. Investors worldwide are eyeing investment opportunities in the start-up sector in China, he said.

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