Science and Technology in New China

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 00:02
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    The Leading Party of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the PRC   

    China has been making tremendous progress in science and technology during the 60 years since the founding of New China. Advances made in science and technology have greatly contributed to building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, increasing China’s overall national strength and international standing and accelerating the pace of socialist modernization. China has been exploring and following a path of development in science and technology with Chinese characteristics.

    Profound historic changes

    China’s work in science and technology began under very difficult circumstances, made good progress during the process of reform, and developed through innovation, and profound historic changes have taken place in the field. Work in science and technology has provided powerful scientific and technological support for economic development, social progress, improvement in people’s lives and the safeguarding of national security.

    First, China has established a relatively comprehensive modern system for work in science and technology and developed a large team of scientists and technicians. Through 60 years of development China has become one of the few countries in the world with a relatively comprehensive system of academic disciplines. China has developed a pool of important scientific and technological resources including state research institutes, institutions of higher learning, local research institutes and enterprises, greatly increased investment in science and technology, and continuously improved conditions for scientific research and infrastructure for science and technology. Annual government spending on science and technology increased from 56 million yuan in the early 1950s to 254 billion yuan in 2008. China’s investment in R&D from all sources in 2008 totaled 457 billion yuan, accounting for 1.52% of the country’s GDP. Thanks to the past 60 years of effort, China has become a country with ample human resources in the field of science and technology. The number of professional and technical personnel now totals 22.8 million, and the amount of work of R&D personnel totals 1.9 million man-years, constituting a large contingent of highly qualified scientific and technical personnel.

    Yuan Longping, academician of the China Academy of Engineering in 2001 received the first State Preeminent Science and Technology Award of China for his outstanding contribution to the development of hybrid rice. In 2004 he was awarded a total of 16 major domestic and international prizes, including the World Food Prize and Israel’s “Wolf Prize.” Yuan Longping is shown on the right with colleague Li Bihu inspecting the growth of hybrid rice./ Photo supplied by Xinhua

    Second, China’s scientific research work has made great strides and the country’s strength in science and technology has considerably increased. Since the founding of New China, Chinese personnel in the field of science and technology have been working to reach the forefront of world science and made a number of important advances in theory of analytic functions of several complex variables, Goldbach Conjecture, anti-sigma minus hyperons, theory of continental origin of oil and synthesis of bovine insulin that have approached or reached the world-class levels. Since the institution of the reform and opening up policy, China has achieved a number of major innovations with great international impact in the fields of high-temperature super conductors, nano materials, quantum communications, paleobio-archaeology and life sciences. Major breakthroughs have been made in cutting-edge technologies such as super-hybrid rice, high performance computer, super large scale integrated circuits and third generation mobile communications. China ranks third in the world in the number of SCI theses and fourth in the number of patents granted to inventions. China’s overall level of scientific and technological development is one of the highest among developing countries and the country has reached the world-class levels in some research fields.  

    Third, China has concentrated its finest resources to make technical breakthroughs in major projects and made outstanding contributions to economic development and national security. After sizing up the situation in the 1950s, the CPC and the central government made the major strategic decision to develop “two bombs and one satellite” (viz. atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and artificial earth satellite). China has made major scientific and technological advances that have boosted the prowess of the country and inspired the people through self-reliance and hard struggle under extremely difficult conditions. With the successful manned space flights and lunar exploration projects China has become one of a few countries that have independently mastered advanced space technologies. Breakthroughs in a series of key technical barriers have ensured the successful completion of major state projects such as the Three Gorges Project and Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The pooling of the country’s finest scientific and technological forces and coordination of efforts to tackle key scientific and technological problems has provided powerful scientific and technological support for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics and contributed to their success. The government is now making plans to implement 16 major special science and technology projects that have a bearing on the national economy, social development and national security and is now working to take a strategic commanding position for future scientific and economic competition. 

    Fourth, China’s level of industrial technology has been greatly upgraded, providing strong support for speeding up the process of industrialization and for taking a new road to industrialization. After the founding of New China, the country’s scientific and technical personnel developed some major basic industrial equipment and new-type materials badly needed for national development and discovered and developed a number of large oilfields and mines, thus eradicating the notion that China is poor in oil resources and lacks mineral deposits. Since the introduction of the reform and opening up policy, China’s scientific and technological development has been geared to meeting the needs of the main issue of economic development. Based on the introduction and absorption of advanced technologies from overseas, China has developed and applied a number of key generic technologies, remarkably improved its ability to independently develop major technical equipment and greatly increased localization of production of such equipment and its ability to carry out entire engineering process on its own. China has improved its ability to make innovations in technologies in basic industries and manufacturing industries. A number of new industries in information technology, biomedicine, new energy sources and advanced manufacturing are experiencing vigorous development. The scale of high-tech industry has been continuously expanding and a large number of dynamic new and high technology enterprises have been rapidly growing. The state new and high technology zones have played a vital role in concentrating new and high technology enterprises and in promoting their development in adjacent areas, and have become an important force in the development of China’s new and high technology industries.

    Fifth, advances in science and technology have benefited hundreds of millions of people in China and made an important contribution to raising the standards of living and the quality of life of the people. China has made rapid progress in the 60 years since the founding of New China in agricultural science and technology and cultivated and popularized more than 8,000 new varieties of agricultural crops. In particular, major projects in agricultural science and technology such as the development and large area cultivation of new varieties like hybrid rice and development of high-yield grain crops have increased the cultivation of improved varieties of major crops such as grain, cotton and oil-bearing plants to over 90%, significantly raised the overall grain production capacity and enabled China to support 22% of the world’s population with less than 10% of the world’s arable land. The application of a large number of advances in agricultural science and technology in production, the establishment of a diverse system of rural science and technology services and the training of millions of technical personnel in applied technology in rural areas have promoted a change from traditional agriculture to modern agriculture and supported the building of a new socialist countryside and a balanced development of urban and rural areas. China has made breakthroughs in a number of key technologies affecting the health of its population, resources and the environment, public security, natural disaster prevention and mitigation. These breakthroughs have provided scientific and technological support for coping with public health emergencies and major natural disasters. China has actively worked to popularize knowledge in science and technology, encourage and promote a scientific spirit throughout society, spread scientific and technological knowledge and continuously raise the level of scientific knowledge of its citizens and provide spiritual, cultural and intellectual support for building a harmonious socialist society.

    Sixth, driven by reform and opening up, development of a national innovation system has made good progress on all fronts. Along with the continuous deepening of reforms, major changes have been made in China’s science and technology system. The structure of academic disciplines has been improved, work in science and technology is more geared to the demands of the economy, and constant progress has been made in improving the administration and operational mechanism for the science and technology system. Continued progress was made in the knowledge innovation project and the technology innovation project has been fully implemented, regional innovation activity has been more active than ever and major breakthroughs have been made in developing a system for making innovations in technology headed by enterprises and guided by the market that integrates the efforts of enterprises, universities and research institutes. Formulation of legislation concerning science and technology has been continuously accelerated, producing a series of laws and regulations such as the Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Progress in Science and Technology, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Promoting the Application of Advances in Science and Technology, and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Popularization of Science and Technology. China has established and improved a patent system, promulgated a state strategic outline for intellectual property rights and introduced a large number of policy measures to encourage independent innovation. The breadth and depth of international cooperation in science and technology has been continuously increased, resulting in the establishment of cooperative relations in science and technology with 152 countries and regions to form a new pattern of international cooperation in science and technology that is multi-directional, has multiple forms, is wide in scope and is at a high level. This provides a powerful guarantee for independent innovation and further opening up to the outside world.

    Many important indications for the future

    The glorious and dynamic course of development of China’s work in science and technology over the past 60 years has enriched our understanding of the strategic position of work in science and technology and the general laws governing development of science and technology and provided important and profound indications for the future development of China’s work in science and technology.

    First, we must follow the principles, policies, resolutions and arrangements of the CPC concerning science and technology work and maintain a correct orientation for the development of science and technology. The leadership of the CPC is a strong political guarantee for developing China’s science and technology. Scientific and technical personnel must resolutely implement the principles and policies of the CPC and implement the major policy decisions and arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the central government, focus on the central task of economic development, serve the overall interests of the country, take full advantage of the political superiority of socialism in concentrating resources to accomplish major undertakings, make good use of the basic role of the market in allocating scientific and technological resources and adhere to a road of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics. 

    Second, we must continue to make independent innovations the strategic base in developing science and technology. Experience has shown that in key areas affecting the lifeline of the national economy and security of the country we can only depend on ourselves for the true core and key technologies. In order to truly keep the destiny of the development and security of our country in our own hands we must vigorously promote original innovations, integrated innovations, and assimilation of foreign technologies to refine them; we must master the core technologies to create our own independent intellectual property rights. In addition, we must also recognize the importance of borrowing from the advanced practices of all countries in developing science and technology to make effective use of the scientific and technological resources of the whole world and promote independent innovation in China from a higher starting point. 

    Third, we must continue to take full advantage of the role of science and technology in supporting and guiding economic and social development. The development of science and technology in China must be rooted in the present, be geared to the future and focus on key strategic areas. In other words, we must start by addressing practical and pressing needs, then strive to make breakthroughs in major key technologies and generic technologies and support sustained and balanced economic and social development while looking ahead to the future by planning ahead for research in cutting-edge technologies and for basic research, and strengthening our ability to continue making innovations to induce future economic and social development.

    Fourth, we must continue to put people first and ensure that science benefits the people. Science and technology constitute an important force for improving the lives of the people and promoting social harmony. We must ensure that progress in science and technology benefits the people and serves the people, and strive to make advances in science and technology that improve the lives of the people so that the fruits of scientific and technological innovation benefit the many people of China by closely tying work in science and technology to the immediate interests and pressing demands of the 1.3 billion people of China.

    Fifth, we must view China’s human resources as the most important resource and take full advantage of the enthusiasm and creativity of scientific and technical personnel. Personnel represent a strategic resource for the development of the country. In order to maintain the initiative in the face of acute international competition, we must firmly establish the idea that human resources constitute the most important of all resources and devote a great deal of effort to producing large numbers of top-flight personnel who are at the forefront of science and technology in the world and have the courage to experiment and innovate. We must comply with the general laws for cultivating creative personnel, improve training to produce leaders in the fields of science and technology and creative personnel in all areas and at all levels and encourage personnel in science and technology to be as innovative and creative as possible.

    Sixth, we need to use reform and innovation to drive the development of a national innovation system with Chinese characteristics. Experience has shown that in order to speed up the pace of scientific and technological innovation we must break the shackles of certain ideas and concepts and certain systems and mechanisms and devote a great deal of effort to making innovations in systems and mechanisms. We must deepen reform of the science and technology system, nurture and strengthen the entities responsible for innovations, promote effective interaction of the factors behind innovations and promote openness and sharing of innovation resources, so as to promote comprehensive progress and coordinated interaction among the technology innovation system, the knowledge innovation system, the system of innovation of military and civilian integration, the regional innovation system and the system of scientific and technological service agencies.

    Seventh, we must steadfastly create an excellent environment for scientific and technological progress. Scientific research is a creative type of labor and we must give full play to the role of democracy in academia, encourage competition among ideas in academia and act in accordance with the laws of science. We must promote a scientific spirit in society, develop a creative culture and form a policy system, legal guarantees, incentives and an excellent environment conducive to scientific and technological innovation. We must bring together all the forces of science and technology from all quarters so that all our scientific and technological resources pull together like a giant team of horses.

(From Qiushi in Chinese No.19 2009)

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