The fourteenth Five-Year Plan (2021–2025) emphasises innovation as the driving force for China’s future economic development with the aim of doubling Chinese GDP and income per capita until 2035. However, a glance at the country’s approaches to implement these economic policy goals reveals a rather mixed picture. On the one hand, China continues to highlight the importance of market-oriented reforms and deregulation; on the other hand, the aim is to achieve economic and technological self-sufficiency under government leadership. A recent ZEW expert brief explains how previous economic-policy measures have impacted on Chinese innovative and economic output. This expert brief marks the beginning of a series of publications by researcher Philipp Boeing and his team who jointly present their research findings on China’s innovation activity.