Engineering Science and Technology:Backbone That Supports China’s Efforts to Make Itself Strong and Its People Prosperous

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 11:33
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 Science and technology is the primary productive force, and engineering science and technology constitutes a force that directly promotes economic and social development and the backbone supporting efforts to make the country strong and the people prosperous. The overall level of China’s engineering science and technology has improved greatly since the founding of New China. At the same time, the overall national strength and the country’s core competitiveness have also seen marked improvement, with China’s prowess in certain fields reaching advanced international levels and playing an important role in promoting economic and social development and national security.

 The government founded the Chinese Academy of Engineering in 1994 and staffed the academy with a group of outstanding experts in engineering science and technology. This greatly encouraged and inspired other personnel in the field of engineering science and technology and played an important part in promoting development of China’s engineering science and technology and improving its scientific and technological level.

 Guided by the Scientific Outlook on Development, China’s engineering science and technology has entered a new era of independent innovation and made great strides in key areas capable of supporting the country’s present development requirements and leading future development.

 I. Major contributions of China’s engineering science and technology

 Looking back at the long course of the modernization of human society, it can be seen that each major step forward was closely related to revolutionary breakthroughs in engineering science and technology. Engineering science and technology can profoundly impact and change the fate of a country. The Chinese nation stood up after suffering through the untold chaos of war, which left a scene of desolation wherever one looked. In the 60 years since the founding of New China, the Chinese people have made every effort to make the country strong. China’s GDP and overall national strength have jumped to the front ranks of the world, China has reached or is approaching world advanced levels in certain important areas of engineering science and technology and the living standards of the people and China’s core competitiveness have greatly improved. In the face of doubts about “who will support China,” China’s experts in agricultural engineering science and technology, led by Yuan Longping, have taken the lead, making major breakthroughs in developing hybrid rice. The yield per unit area of grain has continuously improved. China supports 22% of the world’s population with 7% of the arable land. Improvement in vaccine technology and development of a system of disease prevention and control has raised the average life expectancy of the Chinese people from 35 in 1950 to the current 74. China has successfully prevented the spread of large-scale epidemics such as SARS in this country of 1.3 billion people. Improvement in production processes and technology has enabled the overall scale of China’s manufacturing industry to leap to the second place in the world. Breakthroughs in major engineering techniques such as smeltering and continuous casting and rolling have enabled China to become a major world iron and steel producer with an annual output exceeding 500 million tons. Breakthroughs in theory of origin of oil and prospecting techniques, in particular the discovery of the Daqing Oilfield, have enabled China to rapidly transform from “a country poor in petroleum resources” to a major world petroleum producer. Breakthroughs in construction, equipment and control techniques have enabled China to rapidly climb to the second place in the world in terms of total mileage of expressways and railways. The many large bridges across rivers and sea straits have not only enabled the country to turn deep chasms into thoroughfares, but more importantly, represented China’s glories in the history of bridge building. Tremendous breakthroughs from the 10,000 ton hydraulic press to digitally controlled machine tools, from small thermal power plants to development of third generation nuclear power plants, from the abacus to the “Dawning” computer, from manual telephones to 3G mobile telecommunications and next generation Internet technology, from atomic bomb, missile and man-made satellites to the Shenzhou series of spacecraft and the “Moon Exploration Project,” all represent brilliant achievements made in the 60-year history of New China.

 II. Opportunities and challenges for the development of China’s engineering science and technology

 China must rely on advances and innovations to transform itself from a big country to a strong one. The glorious achievements China has made in engineering science and technology over the past 60 years are enough to make us proud. But we are now standing at a new starting point and it is more important than ever for us to open our eyes to the world to fully grasp the situation in the world so we can gain a clear understanding and make an accurate judgment of the opportunities and challenges before us in the development of engineering science and technology.

  June 11, 2009, the Southwestern Institute of Physics located in Chengdu announces that the HL-2A tokamak, for the first time achieves high confinement mode operation under the diverter configuration. This is HL-2A tokamak. Experts point out that this is a major development and milestone achievement in China’s experimentation and research in magnetic confinement fusion and marks a new high in the strength and level of China’s research and development efforts in the field of magnetic confinement fusion as a new energy source. / Photo supplied by Xinhua

 China’s engineering science and technology is being presented with unprecedented opportunities for development. These opportunities are mainly due to four factors. One, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the development of engineering science and technology and independent innovation and have defined clear objectives and the orientation for this development. Improvement of our ability to make independent innovations and transform China into an innovative country is now the core of the country’s strategy for development and the key to raising its overall national strength. The Outline of the National Medium and Long-term Program for Science and Technology Development points out the orientation for China’s development of engineering science and technology. Two, we urgently need the support of engineering science and technology in order to implement the Scientific Outlook on Development and take a new road to industrialization. China’s achievements in economic development have attracted the attention of the world thanks to the rapid development over the past 30 years of reform and opening up. Meanwhile, the serious consequences brought about by the extensive growth pattern are becoming more serious and apparent with each passing day. Constraints in the supply of energy and resources and in the environment have become bottlenecks threatening sustainable economic and social development. Pressure to transform and upgrade the economic structure is increasing daily. It urgently requires strong support from engineering science and technology and advances in science and technology to resolve these issues. This is a historical mission for this generation of engineering science and technology personnel. Three, the many projects currently being undertaken have provided engineering science and technology with a golden opportunity for development. China will continue to be in a period of great industrialization, urbanization and IT application for some time to come. The construction of many large-scale projects will continue unabated, promoting continuous development of engineering science and technology and providing plenty of opportunities to advance engineering science and technology. Four, the deepening of economic globalization will present China’s engineering science and technology with even more opportunities as a late comer. Unprecedented profound changes are taking place in the world today. Economic globalization has brought about a rapid exchange of capital, technology and personnel in the world. Personnel working in the field of engineering science and technology in China should ceaselessly work to make improvements in their field by absorbing ideas from all sources. They should use IT to support development of engineering science and technology, fully utilize the favorable condition that advanced technologies and R&D capabilities are being transferred and integrated in a large scale and across borders worldwide, boldly make innovations and make good use of resulting superior capacities and work to make leapfrog advances in engineering science and technology. 

 Meanwhile, China is also facing grim challenges in developing engineering science and technology. First, the country’s poor ability to make independent innovations has become a major problem in engineering science and technology. Enterprises are mainly responsible for technology innovation. But, on the whole the innovative ability of most of China’s enterprises is extremely weak. They do not pay sufficient attention to R&D work in science and technology, do not invest enough in R&D, do not have effective mechanisms for making innovations, do not have a good competitive edge and continue to rely on imports for many core technologies and key products. Second, training of creative personnel to work in the field of engineering science and technology urgently needs to be improved. Third, systems and mechanisms need to be further improved. Scientific mechanisms and systems in science and technology are important guarantees for success in efforts to improve the ability to make independent innovations. Fourth, international competition in making technology innovation is becoming more and more intense. For many years, the developed countries have been increasing their investment in science and education with the objective of improving their ability to make innovations and maintain their competitive edge in the international arena.

 III. Future of engineering science and technology work in China

 The key aspect of international competition is competition in the field of science and technology. In the face of increasing competition in the international arena, we must take advantage of opportunities and meet challenges to take the lead in scientific development through development and innovation in engineering science and technology.

 First, we must vigorously promote and foster a national spirit of self-improvement in order to make more independent innovations. This national spirit of self-improvement has been an important source of spiritual strength that has enabled the Chinese nation to last for 5,000 years and the reason it has maintained its great vitality and creativity. Moreover, this national spirit should be seen as the source of strength and ideological and cultural basis for independent innovation today. We must strengthen our confidence in Chinese enterprises and Chinese brands, strengthen our confidence in our own universities and research and development organizations and strengthen our confidence that the technologies requiring our support for the next five to ten years will become mainstream technologies.

 Second, we must improve top-level design by giving full play to the role of think tanks. We must no longer only concern ourselves with local issues in single fields in our future development, especially in making important policy decisions concerning what will very often be complex system engineering issues that involve many fields and branches of learning. In order to solve these problems, we must first of all do a good job in top-level design and give play to the role of think tanks in top-level design and in making major policy decisions. The Chinese Academy of Engineering must continue to make good use of the superior skills of academicians, work with all segments of society and strive to build an appropriate state think tank for engineering science and technology that can contribute to top-level design for important policy decisions and major engineering projects of the Party and state.

 Third, we must concentrate our efforts on training creative personnel and leadership personnel for engineering science and technology. The Chinese economy is now in a critical period of structural readjustment and improvement in performance and at the same time is facing the acute challenge of international competition. Studies have shown that the coming decade will be an important period of strategic opportunities for training creative personnel in engineering science and technology. We must grasp the opportunities, create the necessary conditions and concentrate our efforts on training creative personnel in engineering science and technology and produce a new team for the rejuvenation and prosperity of the Chinese nation.

 Fourth, we must deepen reform of the science and technology structure to promote more innovations in engineering science and technology work. Through reform, we need to strengthen the enthusiasm and creativity of scientists and technicians working in enterprises, institutions of higher learning, scientific research institutes and their related government departments, support and encourage enterprises to truly be the main investors in the effort to make technology innovation and R&D work, promote integration of production, education and research, promote the free flow of knowledge, improve training of personnel and encourage the sharing of science and technology resources to ensure an inexhaustible source of strength to drive innovation in engineering science and technology.

 Fifth, we must ensure that our work is geared to global demands and adheres to a road of innovation in the advance of China’s engineering science and technology. It is difficult for a developing country to emulate the practice of developed countries, which maintain their position of international leadership through sustained increase of investment in science and technology. Economic globalization, increasing application of IT and a development path with Chinese characteristics provide China’s engineering science and technology with rare opportunities for development. We are entirely capable of working out a way of making innovations with Chinese characteristics and making brilliant achievements in the global arena of engineering science and technology!

(From Qiushi in Chinese No. 24, 2009)

Note: Author: President of the Chinese Academy of Engineering

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