Technology policy and technological innovation in the People's Republic of China

  • Quan Li

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The objective of this research is to unveil the dynamics of technological innovation in planned economies in transition. It is proposed in the thesis that all innovation systems in the world, in fact, consist of certain configurations of market and hierarchy. These systems have always been shifting from one existing market-hierarchy mix to a new one, which is expected to be more conducive to technological innovation and economic development. Current reforms in many planned economies in transition reflect this theoretical proposition. A research framework is constructed to include three main dimensions for the study of a specific innovation system, i.e. Arrangements, Achievements and Actors. China, which has undergone reforms since 1978, is chosen as the empirical basis of the research. The research examined technology policy and technological innovation in China between 1978 to 1988. The thesis starts from Arrangements - R&D System in China and Its Reform. The thesis illustrates reforms in the R&D system in relation to government technology policy. There exist coherent government efforts to promote innovations through various plans, and the planning process incorporates both market and command elements. The institutional structure of Chinese R&D system remains still vertically departmentalised, but horizontal links are created through the market. Secondly, Achievements - Performance of Chinese R&D System is assessed through patterns of technological innovation. Data from National Awards for S&T Progress (1978-1988) are included in a substantial database, which is used to generate patterns of technological innovation and patterns of innovating organisations. These patterns were presented and interpreted in relation to geographical differences, sectoral differences, typological differences, forms of co-operation and the impacts of S&T policy and reform. The third dimension is study on Actors - Innovation in Applied R&D institutes. Through semi-structured interviews and questionnaire survey, internal structure and research management are analysed in the light of ongoing reforms. The reform of R&D funding system greatly affected the way applied R&D institutes operate. Both organisational and individual incentives for innovating are increasingly associated with economic or material benefits. The research suggests there is a need to put reforms in the R&D system into a wider societal and political context. Some general attributes of applied R&D institutes are also discussed in the thesis.
Date of Award1991
Original languageEnglish


  • Technology policy
  • technological innovation
  • People's Republic of China

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