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 Home > Science & Technology > Science and Technology in China
Development of Science and Technology in China
2004-08-03

When New China was founded in 1949, there were no more than 50,000 scientists and technicians in China. Among them, only 500 were engaged in scientific research in just over 30 research institutions across the country. In November 1949, the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established by merging the old Central Research Academy of China and Beijing Research Institute. Since then, the central and local government departments have set up various research institutions. Many intellectuals working and studying abroad returned to their motherland for their contribution, and various kinds of technicians and profession also were recruited from society. These measures, together with the rapid growth of the national education, have greatly increased the number of scientific and technological personnel and thus the scientific and technological level. By 1955, there were 840 scientific and technological research institutions nationwide, which reached 1,600 by 1965. when the “cultural revolution” started. There were five major groups for scientific and technological research in this area: the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the universities, those under the central government departments, the defense departments and the local institutions.

The year of 1956 saw the birth of China’s first long-term plan for scientific and technological development- the Long-Term National Program for Scientific and Technological Development during 1956 and 1967. The major tasks of the program were completed five years earlier. Some new scientific areas such as atomic energy, electronics, semiconductors, automation, computer sciences, jet and satellite technology were established and developed and so were the new industrial departments. All these played a decisive role in the formation of China’s scientific and technological system. In a few years, China’s scientific and technological industry underwent great changes, and there were 1.296 research institutions and 200,000 research personnel by 1962, three times as many as in the first year of the program. Later in 1962, China promulgated the Scientific and Technological Development Program for 1963 to 1972, which prioritized 374 key programs, 3,205 projects and 15.000 research topics. This program was of great historical importance to the sustained growth of our science and technology.

Since China adopted the reform and open policy 20 years ago, its scientific and technological personnel resources have been recovered and developed rapidly, with 20.913 million scientific and technical personnel working in the state organizations by the end of 1998. 4.8 times that of 1975.This represents an annual increase of 828,000 personnel on the average, 5.times as many as the average annual increase of 151000 personnel before 1978, when China implemented the reform and open-up policies. As a result, the number of professionals and technicians per 10,000 staff rose dramatically, from 593 in 1978 to 2,374.2 in 1998.

With the increase of the scientific personnel resources, the expertise level of the Chinese scientists has also improved much. Since the 1990s, the scientists and engineers have accounted for 56-60% of the personnel engaged in scientific and technological activities. The scientific and technological workers numbered 2.814 million in 1998, including 1.49 million scientists and engineers. That represents a 23.1% and 12.8% increase over the year of 1991.

By 1998, China boasted of 5578 state-owned research and development institutions at the county level or above, staffed by 588,000 scientific and technological personnel. Of them, scientists and engineers numbered 363000, accounting for 61.7% of the total, as against 47.8% of 1978.

The higher education institutions are another active contingent in China’s scientific and technological front. In 1998, the Chinese universities had 1,487 research and development institutions. Of them, there were 270 or I8.2°/ for natural sciences, 641 or 43.1% for engineering, 372 or 25% for medical research, and 204 or 13.7% for agriculture. There were 268,000 related personnel, up 9.1% over 1991. They accounted for 68.8% of the total teaching staff, up 8.7% over 1991.

Enterprises are the pillar in China’s modernization construction. The national large and medium-sized enterprises have set up 10,926 R&D departments, twice that of 1988,with 411.000 people engaged in R&D, up 50.5% over 1988. Of them. 240.000 are scientists and engineers, accounting for 58.4% of the total, I6.8% higher than that of 1988.

With the steady improvement of the national economic strength, China’s input of capital in science and technology has increased. The total input for 1998 reached 112.85 billion Yuan, 2.9 times that of 1991. The per-capita science and technology input has grown from 33.5 Yuan in 1991 to 90.4 Yuan in 1998. The input in R&D for 1998 was RMB 55.11 billion Yuan, 3.5 times that of 1991. Since China adopted the reform and open policies in 1978, the state’s fiscal allocation to the science and technology sector has increased at an average annual rate of 1 l.5%. In 1998, the fiscal allocation to this sector reached 46.65 billion Yuan, 8.8 times that of 1978. Of the input, 15.13 billion Yuan went to basic science research, accounting for 32.4%, 3.3 times that of 1978, 21 billion Yuan to applied scientific research, accounting for 45% or 7.1 times that of 1978, and 4.73 billion Yuan to science-related infrastructure construction, accounting for 10.1%. As one of the main forces in scientific input, China’s large and medium-sized enterprises have increased their capital investment in R&D rapidly, RMB 47.87 billion Yuan in 1998, 4.1 times that of 1988.

Strategic Science and Technology Program started in 1982. Its aim is to gather the national scientific strength to solve the major scientific problems encountered in the national economic and social development. From 1991 to 1995, 180 strategic projects were planned concerning the solution of the key economic issues. The total investment for the five years is over 9 billion Yuan, with over 60,000 scientific and technological achievements (35% of which have reached the international level). The aggregated economic returns are over 60 billion Yuan.

The Star Program is another one which aims to develop the agricultural economy with the support of scientific progress and improve the farmers’ quality. By the end of 1998, the Star Program has completed 45,000 projects in all. The year of 1997 implemented 1,753 projects with real input of 12.13 billion Yuan and an additional output of 33.34 billion Yuan. The implementation of the Star Program has been an important means for “the development of agriculture by science and technology”.

In order to raise the competitiveness and innovation capabilities of the companies and cultivate their own technological advance mechanism, the state introduced the National Technical Innovation Program in 1996 and has made much progress since then. In 1997, the state organized the implementation of 528 technical innovation projects and the trial production of 1,420 national-level new products. Meanwhile, it has 15 hi-tech equipment projects developed and examined.

China began to implement hi-tech Program (863 Program) since 1986 with the purpose of catching up the hi-tech development of the world. By the end of 1995, i.e., through ten years hard work, the program has made 1,200 research achievements, of which, 540 were of international level, 73 received the national awards and 244 were patented. Some 268 scientific research achievements were made during 1996-1997. Of them, 21 reached the world-leading level and I25 of the world level. They accounted for 54.5 % of the projects. The successful implementation of the 863 Program has played a significant role in promoting hi-tech development in China.

In order to promote the commercialization, industrialization and internationalization of hi-tech research achievements and to establish its own hi-tech industries, China began to carry out the Torch Program in 1988. By 1998, the national hi-tech development areas have grown from 27 in 1991 to 53 in 1997, with their hi-tech enterprises growing from 2,587 to 16,097 and employees from 13,800 to 1.74 million. The 1998 output from the hi-tech development areas is 483.96 billion Yuan, with industrial output at 433.36 billion Yuan, exports at US$ 8.53 billion, 55.4 times.60.9 times and 12.1 times those of 1991 respectively.

Basic research is the foundation for the steady growth of science and technology. In 1997, China’s expenditure on basic research was 3.7 billion Yuan, 5 times that of 1991. The national input of human resources was 71,000 persons/year, up 16.4% against 1991.

In order to support the basic research, the state has invested 1 .81 billion Yuan in the establishment of 150 key laboratories during 1984 and 1997. According to the statistics, there were 4,340 permanent staff and 14.633 temporary staff working in the national key laboratories in 1997. In that year, 5871 research projects were undertaken, 490 million Yuan were obtained as research fund, 347 project achievements were awarded, and 12,221 research essays were published. Also 2,862 postgraduates finished their studies from universities. In 1986, the National Natural Science Fund was established with the aim to raise China’s basic research level. The Fund input RMB 4.5 billion in total in service super development during 1986 and 1998 and funded 50.000 projects. Since 1991, China has launched the “Climbing Program” in order to promote its basic research level. In the past few years, 213 projects have been implemented with input of RMB 390 million Yuan and over 4.970 research essays have been published, including 1975 in international publications, under this program.

As early as in 1965, China developed various hi-tech products characterized by the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb and the satellite as well as the synthetic crystalline bovine insulin. Since China adopted reform and open-door policies, our scientific and technological achievements are even more remarkable. During 1978 and 1997, China has successfully launched 45 satellites. Its satellite-recovering technology has made China the third country capable of this technology in the world, after the United States and the former Soviet Union. In 198, China succeeded in launching three satellites in one carrier rocket and became the fourth country of the world which masters this technology, after the former Soviet Union, the United States and France. Meanwhile, China successfully launched missiles from underwater, overcame the technical problems concerning high temperature air cooling reactor and fast neutron breeder reactor. Such technologies as 5 megawatt low temperature nuclear supply reactor, Dayawan nuclear power station, atomic manoeuvre technology and atomic process technology, transgenic hybrid rice, etc, are all of the world level. We have also made breakthroughs in high-density information storage research, and we have successfully developed Milky Way—Ill high speed computer, carried out the 6,000 meters deep-sea research by our own-developed underwater robot. All those have marked China’s world level in atomic energy, space technology, high-energy physics, biotechnology, computer sciences, information technology, etc.

According to the statistics. China has made 46500 research achievements since 1981, with about 20% are of the advanced world level. During 1979 and 1998. 2903 achievements have got National Invention Award, and 7297 for the National Advanced Science and Technology Award.

In 1985, the Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China was promulgated with the purpose of encouraging invention and promoting technological exchanges and economic growth. The China Patent Office has accepted 860,000 patent applications from both home and abroad and approved 430,000 during 1985 and 1998, including the acceptance of 122000 applications and approvals of 68000 for 1997 only. Of the 120 countries and regions, China came out the 21st and 24th in terms of the number of applications and approvals.

In the past years, Chinese scientists have turned out more research papers each year. They had 121,512 papers publicized at home for 1997. 40.1% more than in 1989. Meanwhile their publications in international journals have also risen greatly. 35,311 papers for 1997, 2.9 times those of 1989. Ranking by the number of papers published, China has jumped from No.15 in 1989 to No. 9 in 1997.


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