The economy of the past years, when physical labor was the main driving force, by the beginning of the 21st century began to quickly turn into a knowledge-intensive innovative economy, in which the wealth of society is created mainly by mental labor, knowledge and skills of employees and leaders. Changes are associated with the widespread use of information- communication technologies, which led to the transition to the fourth industrial revolution, called Industry 4.0. This trend is spreading to the entire global economy of the 21st century, including the Chinese economy. As a result of digitalization and automation of production, the release of the labor force, as the role of the personnel remaining at enterprises is changing significantly, and its importance is increasing. The article analyzes various scientific views on the categories of “human resources” and “human capital”, reveals their relationship and differences, as well as the most common characteristics of human capital, which are especially evident in the era of the intellectualization of the economy. It is shown that human resources, that is, employees of an enterprise, are carriers of human capital, and its value is manifested through their work in the enterprise. Therefore, human capital is one of the decisive factors in the development of modern enterprises. Without investing in human resources, human capital cannot be formed: this is a necessary condition for its existence; a sufficient condition is the intellectual and social content of human resources. To ensure their sustainable development, enterprises must increase investment in human resources and strive to increase the economic return on human capital. The article examines the experience of investing in China’s individual, corporate and national human capital and draws conclusions about the presence of a general trend in the growth of such investments in the XXI century and the permanent growth of their socio-economic returns. The importance, especially for developing countries, of priority public investment in education and healthcare, in the creation of jobs for national personnel was noted.