Scholars interpret new quality productive forces

Source:Chinese Social Sciences Today 2024-03-21

A Modular Electrification Toolkit workshop of the Volkswagen factory in Anhui Province Photo: XINHUA

General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping called for focusing on high-quality development as the top priority and developing new quality productive forces according to local conditions during a deliberation with his fellow deputies from the delegation of east China’s Jiangsu Province at the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 5.

The term “new quality productive forces” was introduced by Xi during his inspection tour of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province in September 2023. He stressed developing new quality productive forces in the Central Economic Work Conference in December 2023 and systematically elaborated on the new concept during the 11th group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee in January 2024, when he clarified essential theoretical issues such as basic features, core hallmarks, as well as the crux and essence of new quality productive forces.

Scholars of philosophy and social sciences hailed Xi’s theory on new quality productive forces, stating that it offers fundamental guidance for accurately understanding the concept’s connotation and accelerating the development of these forces.

Powering high-quality development

As the Chinese economy transitions from high-speed to high-quality development, higher-level demand will necessarily prompt the iteration, update, and transformative upgrade of productive forces. Yuan Yinchuan, a professor from the School of Marxism at Wuhan University, said that new quality productive forces can effectively overcome the weakness of traditional productive forces, drive technological progress, and boost total factor productivity.

With digital technology as the backbone, the new productive forces can revolutionize the traditional growth pathway and lead to innovative combinations of production factors, Yuan said. Also they can substantially reduce energy consumption, shore up weak links in the development of strategic emerging industries and future-oriented industries, and advance industrial digitalization through digital technology, lending strong impetus to high-quality development.

Currently, inadequate growth momentum of the world economy, a complex and grim external environment, high uncertainty, and insufficient demand highlight the significance of promoting new quality productive forces through high-quality development.

Ding Xiaoyan, vice president of the Jilin Academy of Social Sciences, noted that internationally, amidst the continuous emergence of disruptive technologies in fields like information, biology, energy, and materials, alongside the intersection and integration of multiple fields in industrial development, new quality productive forces are regarded a critical channel for the global economy to overcome challenges and mitigate recession, offering guidance for the future development of the world economy.

Within China, a new round of technological advancements and industrial changes has converged with the country’s push to quicken the transformation of the development model, Ding said. The previous model relying primarily on resource factor input is outdated, while new quality productive forces, based on technological innovation, depart from the traditional growth path, and align with the imperatives of high-quality development, conforming to the needs of China’s economic transition.

‘New’ and ‘quality’

New quality productive forces stand in contrast to traditional productive forces, in that they represent a new form of productive forces turbocharging endogenous development by means of advanced and new technologies. They signify qualitative shifts in traditional productive forces in response to evolving times and social environments.

In the view of Ren Baoping, a distinguished professor from the School of Digital Economy and Development at Nanjing University, the “newness” of new quality productive forces is concerned with three substantive elements—labor, means of labor, and objects of labor, and three permeable factors—technology, management, and education.

“Quality” signals radical changes in the production model, Ren continued. In the new production model, innovation is considered the vital factor of productive forces, with breakthroughs in key and disruptive technologies being particularly essential for enhancing and propelling these forces forward. This evolution indicates a more efficient utilization of resources, thereby reducing excessive dependence on limited resources and alleviating the burden on the environment.

Emphasizing technological innovation and creative solutions, new quality productive forces can generate new drivers for economic growth and social progress. Zhou Wen, deputy dean of the Institute of Marxism at Fudan University, defined new quality productive forces as productive forces with new technology, new economy, new industries, and new business formats as their main connotations and features.

These productive forces are considered new because they are powered by key and disruptive new technologies, with supporting vehicles transitioning towards future-oriented industries and strategic emerging sectors. Moreover, they embody novelty in their development model, moving beyond traditional extensive growth and aligning with the imperatives of high-quality development. Additionally, they represent novelty in productive factors, characterized by the upgrading and expansion of labor, means of labor, and objects of labor, Zhou said.

In the new era, new quality productive forces imply comprehensive changes and a well-balanced, rational deployment and utilization of the elements constituting productive forces. Yuan stressed that new quality productive forces are first bolstered by advanced social systems. Committed to meeting people’s growing need for a better life, socialism with Chinese characteristics is capable of fully mobilizing the initiative and creativity of laborers and unleashing huge potential and momentum for the development of productive forces. This provides broad space and institutional guarantees for the development of new quality productive forces.

Second, new quality productive forces are driven by technological innovation, featuring high efficiency, high quality, high intelligence, sustainability, and greenness, Yuan said.

Third, new quality productive forces comprehensively reform fundamental factors—means of labor, objects of labor, and laborers, and optimize the layout of these factors. They alter the unidimensionality of traditional productive forces characterized by a dependence on nature and a focus on material objects, preconditioning people’s liberal and well-rounded development, Yuan added.

Complementary to traditional industries

“Developing new quality productive forces does not mean neglecting or abandoning traditional industries,” Xi remarked during the deliberation. Transforming and upgrading traditional industries, as well as expanding and strengthening advantaged industries, both necessitate the significant role of new quality productive forces.

Li Zheng, dean of the School of Economics at Liaoning University, said that the starting point of developing new quality productive forces should lie in continuously fostering new industries, new business formats, and new models, with the objective to create new sectors, enhance new driving forces, and cultivate new advantages. He argued that developing new quality productive forces and galvanizing traditional industries are not contradictory. The key is to endow traditional industries with advanced technology, high efficiency, and high quality through transformation and upgrade.

Editor:Yu Hui

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