China To Step Up Its Controversial Technology Plans

BEIJING (AP) — China plans to step up efforts to develop clean energy and other technology industries this year, government officials said Thursday, a strategy that has strained trade ties with Washington and other governments.

Beijing also will create an "enabling environment" for homegrown next-generation mobile technology and electric cars, said Zhu Hongren, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

"China will further develop a series of plans for development of these important sectors," Zhu said at a news conference.

Zhu gave no details of planned support. But efforts to nurture Chinese producers of clean energy and other technologies with subsidies and preference in government procurement have triggered complaints Beijing was violating free trade principles. Washington filed a World Trade Organization case in December challenging subsidies to Chinese producers of wind and solar equipment.

Communist leaders are promoting work on a range of technologies from semiconductors to genetics in hopes of creating profitable industries and reducing China's reliance on foreign know-how. Clean energy is getting special attention because Beijing wants to curb China's surging appetite for imported oil.

Beijing's high-tech plans are especially sensitive at a time when the United States and other Western governments hope to create new jobs by boosting technology exports.

Zhu said Beijing's new development efforts would be in line with free trade rules.

"I wish to emphasize that China's support for research and development and technology is in accordance with the WTO and we have treated foreign businesses in China, such as those from the United States, equally," he said.

"Chinese high-tech development will provide opportunities for foreign as well as Chinese businesses."

In mobile phones, researchers expect to finish development next year of equipment for China's homegrown fourth-generation, or 4G, standard, said Zhang Feng, director of the industry ministry's telecoms development department.

"The conditions are basically there for large-scale testing of TD-LTE," Zhang said, referring to China's version of Long Term Evolution, the dominant 4G standard.

Zhu said technology plans this year also call for development of more energy-efficient, low-carbon industry. The government announced this month it met a five-year target to reduce China's "energy intensity," or energy consumption per unit of economic output, by 20 percent from 2005 levels by the end of 2010.