Science and technology key to China's revitalization#China Newsweek#-Sino-US


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Science and technology key to China's revitalization

China has just launched the Chang’e 4 robotic probe, the first artifact to touch down on the moon's far side, which demonstrates the country’s latest achievement in space exploration.

In recent years, China has made a lot of cutting-edge achievements in the science and technology sector, and Chinese companies also have devoted to the research and innovation that bring advantages for them.

In the 43rd issue of 2018, the China Newsweek magazine ran a cover story on the country’s system reform in the science and technology sector that facilitated the achievements.

Below is an excerpt of the article.

The year 1978 can be considered a watershed in contemporary Chinese history. Many great events took place in the political life of the country this year, all aiming to turn the country’s focus to economic development.

China launched the reform and opening up policy in 1978, and the leadership realized that the economic development relied on science and technology, education and talents, and therefore the reform started in the science and technology sector.

Eight months before the milestone, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, a landmark national conference on science was held.

Since the national conference, the development of science and technology in China has just come out of the cold winter and ushered in the spring.

Along with the country’s reform and opening up in the past 40 years, China has developed a science and technology system with Chinese characteristics.

From a focus on science and technology as the primary productive force to the innovation-driven development, the country’s scientific and technological innovation system has experienced a series of important changes.

The changes reflected the necessity and complexity of the reform and opening up, becoming a microcosm of China's reform and opening up.

Spring of science

The Chinese Academy of Sciences was badly hit during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), as the research work of most programs stopped and many talents were forced to leave their posts or died.

In January 1977, Fang Yi was appointed as the deputy head of the academy to assist Guo Moruo, the then academy head. On May 12 that year, Fang joined a meeting with Deng Xiaoping who stressed that knowledge and talents should be respected.

On May 30, Fang reported the academy’s work to the State Council, China’s cabinet, and at the meeting, the leadership decided to promote the country’s science and technology to a high level in about three decades.

To fulfill the target, a national conference on science was needed to unify thoughts. It was the first time that the idea of a national conference on science appeared in a public document.

On June 6, a leading group of 16 members was established for preparatory work of the national conference on science.

At a symposium in August, Deng stressed respect for knowledge and talents, and another important decision of the symposium was the resumption of gaokao - national college entrance examination.

Starting from 1978, the achievements of Chinese mathematician Chen Jingrun were widely reported, and this was part of the publicity campaign for the national conference on science.

Wang Yangzong, a professor at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that during the preparatory period of about 10 months, the social discrimination against intellectuals has been completely reversed.

From national level to province- and city-level, a large group of scientific and technological workers and achievements have been awarded.

From March 18 to 31, the national conference on science was held at the Great Hall of the People. The conference laid the groundwork for the future development of the science and technology sector.

Since the conference, the funding from the central government in the science and technology sector increased every year from tens of millions of yuan to hundreds of billions of yuan.

System reform

In the first years of the reform and opening up, the work in the science and technology sector mainly focused on changing the attitude and thought, resuming the research order and programs, and enlarging the research team.

In 1982, the report to the 12th National Congress of Communist Party of China for the first time listed science and technology as a strategic focus of national economic development.

In October that year, a basic principle was put forward under which science and technology was to be used for economic construction.

China adopted the planned management model in the science and technology sector in its early stage, which had advantages in solving major scientific and technological issues but disadvantages in rectifying errors.

In 1984, the central authorities decided to reform the science and technology sector. On March 13, 1985, the CPC Central Committee adopted the decision on the reform of the sector.

The fundamental purpose was to apply scientific and technological achievements widely and rapidly to production, thus boosting economic and social development.

The year 1985 was important in laying the foundation for the development of science and technology to serve the economy.

The reform introduced the market mechanism in the science and technology sector, such as the institutions having to get money from other resources not only from the government. The reform also changed the tenure of personnel.

However, because the economic development had little inner demand for science and technology at that time, and the funds for the institutions were cut, it made it difficult for them to pay for the staff.

In 1995, a decision to facilitate the scientific and technological development was published, adding the goal of scaling new heights in reform, which stressed the sector’s development besides its role in boosting economic development.

An apparent change was that the government invested more to support the basic scientific and technological research. In 1986, the National Natural Science Foundation of China had only 80 million yuan, and in 1996, it increased to 645 million yuan.

In 1997, the leading group on science and technology urged the government to support key scientific and technological research, and the national foundation to support free exploration.

Liu Yun, a professor from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said between 1995 and 2001, China issued 107 policies on scientific and technological personnel, which bolstered the cultivation of scientific and technological talents.

Innovative country

By the end of 1997, the Chinese Academy of Sciences submitted the report of establishing the national innovation system to the central authorities. In February 1998, Jiang Zemin gave instructions for the academy to start a pilot scheme.

The academy’s Institute of Mathematics was included in the pilot scheme in 1998 and it gained more financial support, and most workers could feel the change.

This was the important watershed of national science and technology development, the innovation concept was brought into the sector and the policy turned to strengthen the national innovation system.

In 2001, China joined in the World Trade Organization, connecting China’s market to the global market.

Sui Jigang, a researcher from the Institutes of Science and Development, said that at that time, Chinese companies mainly offered cheap labor force in the international division of labor while competing with their peers.

High-tech products have high added value, but Chinese companies lacked enough technological resources to move up the value chain, Sui said.

Through its participation in globalization, China has gradually accumulated a certain amount of capital and can set the goal of an innovative country, Sui said.

At the national conference on science and technology on January 9, 2006, Hu Jintao urged to “adhere to the road of independent innovation with Chinese characteristics and strive for the construction of an innovative country.”

Before that, the country’s system reform mainly focused on high schools and research institutions, and for a long time, the reform in the science and technology sector and the economic sector moved forward separately.

The proposal to build an innovative country attaches importance to the key role of enterprises in innovation.

In 2006, to build an innovative country, the central government issued the country’s medium and long-term outline of science and technology development planning between 2006 and 2020.

The planning defined 11 key domains of economic and social development and 68 priority subjects, arranging 16 key programs and 27 cutting edge technologies in eight fields, 18 basic scientific issues and four important research plans.

According to a review from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the R&D intensity increased from 1.39 percent in 2006 to 2.11 percent in 2016. Though it did not reach the goal of 2.5 percent, it still exceeded the threshold of 2 percent for an innovative country. The R&D intensity shows the total investment against the gross domestic product.


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