China revamps national technology leadership group, tech shares rise

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has revamped a national leadership group charged with planning and studying its key technological development strategies, signaling potential policy shifts are underway as its technological ambitions fueled a backlash abroad.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the China-EU Business Roundtable held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, July 16, 2018. Ng Han Guan/Pool via Reuters

The group, formerly called the “National Technology and Education leadership Group” under the state Cabinet, has been renamed without the mention of education to reflect a focus on technology, according to a circular published on the government’s website on Wednesday.

The circular said the change was due to “relevant arrangements” as required by work, without elaborating. Premier Li Keqiang, who had chaired the original group since 2013, will lead the renamed body with vice premier Liu He as deputy.

More assistance for China’s tech sector would mark the latest in a series of growth-boosting measures being rolled out by Beijing as an escalating trade war with the United States puts more pressure on China’s already slowing economy.

Shares of China’s leading tech firms rallied on Thursday, with investors expecting a policy boost for their sector.

An index tracking major IT firms rose more than 4 percent, while an index tracking major telecoms firms gained nearly 4 pct. China’s tech-heavy start-up board ChiNextP was up 3.4 percent.

Under a state-backed industrial policy known as Made in China 2025, China wants to catch up with rivals in sectors including robotics, aerospace, clean-energy cars and advanced basic materials.

The strategy, unveiled by China’s State Council in 2015, is at the core of China’s efforts to move up the value chain and achieve President Xi Jinping’s vision of turning the country into a global superpower by 2050.

However, foreign business groups have criticized the program as large-scale import substitution.

Under the plan, Beijing wants Chinese suppliers to capture 70 percent of market share by 2025 for “basic core components and important basic materials” in strategic industries.

Other members of the revamped leadership group include top officials from more than a dozen ministries and key central government bodies, including central bank head Yi Gang and State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission director Xiao Yaqing.

It was unclear how the member composition was different because the state Cabinet did not publish the notice announcing the former group’s members on its official website (www.gov.cn).

The State Council Information Office did not answer repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Paul Tait

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