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Great Achievements in Scientific and Technological Innovation
2009/10/27

 

The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Before this, China's scientific and technological undertaking was a blank page in its history. There were few specialized scientific research institutions and a deficiency of scientific and technological experts. The birth of the New China was the starting point for the rapid development of China's S&T undertakings. With the great attention of the government and thanks to the huge efforts of S&T personnel, rapid development in S&T undertakings resulted, astonishing the whole world with the results achieved and massively strengthening national S&T levels. The flourishing development of the S&T undertakings has provided new vigor and huge impetus to China's socialist modernization drive.

 

1. Planning as a Whole and Laying the Foundations for S&T Development

 

In 1949, there were no more than 50,000 scientific and technical personnel in China, of whom less than 500 were engaged in scientific research, and there were only 30-odd scientific research institutions. However, just one month after the founding of the PRC, the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established. Thereafter, a wide-ranging group of research institutes was set up, covering various industrial sectors in different parts of China. By 1966, there were more than 1,600 scientific and technological research institutions nationwide. There were five major groups for scientific and technological research: the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the universities, those under the central government departments, the defense departments, and the local institutions.

In 1956, China formulated the 1956-1967 Long-Term National Program for Scientific and Technological Development, its first long-term plan for scientific and technological development, intended to build up its scientific strength, overtake the world advanced level, and meet the arrival of the upsurge in economic development. The Program worked out 57 major scientific and technological tasks, with priority given to the peaceful use of atomic energy, wireless electronics, semiconductor technology, automation technology, computer technology, jet-propelled and rocket technology, and various other new fields. The major aims of the program were completed in 1962, five years earlier than planned. Thus a group of new scientific and technological fields were established and developed, and so were the new industrial departments required to support them. So the Program played a decisive role in forming China's S&T system. Within a short span of seven years, China witnessed a rapid development of science and technology, and closed the gap between itself and the world advanced level. In 1958, China's first electronic numerical integrator and computer successfully underwent trials, which played an important role in the theoretical design of its first A-bomb and research into the nuclear blast problem. In 1959, semiconductor triodes and diodes were successfully developed; in 1964, China's first nuclear test was successfully conducted, and its first home-made carrier rocket was successfully launched; in 1965, China developed the world's first synthetic bovine insulin. The smooth implementation of the Program has played an active role in setting up research institutions and cultivating scientific and technological teams in China. By 1962, the number of research institutions nationwide increased from 380 in the early period of the implementation of the Program to 1,296, covering various scientific and technological fields; that of the personnel engaged in research work rose from 60,000 to approximately 200,000. Later, China also mapped out the 1963-1972 National Program for Scientific and Technological Development, which contained 374 key S&T projects, including 3,205 core problems and 15,000 research subjects. This Program played an important role in directing the sustainable development of China's S&T undertakings.

 

2. Plan that China Worked Out to Promote the Rapid Development of China's S&T Undertakings

 

However, during the "cultural revolution" (1966 to 1976), otherwise known as the Ten-year Chaos, China's scientific and technological undertakings were seriously damaged. Many scientific research institutes were closed and a number of research and development personnel persecuted. The S&T strength, steadily built up through 17 years of patient development, was pretty much destroyed.

After China initiated the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, the Chinese Government organized and implemented a series of national S&T programs, and a strategic pattern for the comprehensive development of Chinese S&T work at three levels, namely the main S&T field based on economic development, the development of new hi-tech industries, and basic research.

The Strategic Science and Technology Program started in 1982. Its aim is to gather the national scientific expertise in order to solve the major scientific problems encountered in the course of national economic and social development. Since the implementation of the program, a great number of scientific achievements have been made, thus yielding great economic returns. During the eighth five-year plan (1991-1995), some 180 strategic projects were planned in respect of finding the solution to the key economic issues. The total investment for the five years was over 9 billion Yuan, yielding over 60,000 scientific and technological achievements (35% of which have gone on to reach the international level). The aggregated economic returns now stand at over 60 billion Yuan.

The Star Program is another which aims to develop the agricultural economy with the support of scientific progress and thus improve the farmers' quality. The implementation of the Star Program significantly enhanced the farmers' S&T consciousness and operational concepts and outstanding economic and social returns were made. By the end of 1998, the Star Program had completed 45,000 projects in all. The year 1998 also saw the implementation of 1,753 projects with a real input of 12.13 billion Yuan and an additional output of 33.34 billion Yuan. In order to raise the competitiveness and innovation capabilities of the companies and cultivate their own technological advancement mechanism beneficial to independent innovation, the state introduced the National Technical Innovation Program in 1996 and has made much progress since then. In 1998, the State organized the implementation of 528 technical innovation projects and the trial production of 1,420 national-level new products. Meanwhile, 15 hi-tech equipment projects were developed and examined. The system for enterprise technological innovation has been strengthened, with the establishment of an enterprise technological center as the main form. By the end of 1998, the State had identified 203 national-level enterprise technological centers in through batches and more than 200 had been identified by governments at provincial level (municipalities directly under the Central Government).

China began to implement its Hi-tech Program (863 Program) in 1986 with the purpose of catching up with the hi-tech development of the rest of the world. Over the past more than 20 years, the 863 Program has been smoothly implemented, making it possible for China to achieve significant results in the fields of high-performance computer manufacturing, micro-electronic equipment, energy technology, biology, modern agriculture, and new materials, as well as mastering a large number of key technologies and industrial core technologies, cultivating a group of new industries, and putting toget a large number of innovation-type hi-tech experts and teams, thus laying the foundations for the sustainable development of China's hi-tech research and development. 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. Over the past 20 years since the Torch Program was first implemented, China has seen a rapid development of its industrialized hi-tech industries and the environment for sustaining them. In the last two decades, the Torch Program has played a guiding role in enhancing the independent innovative capabilities of the regions and enterprises and building an innovation-type country. It has helped set up the policy environment, operation mechanism and systems for new hi-tech industrialization with Chinese characteristics, cultivating a culture for the development of hi-tech industries and innovative consciousness, promoting a large number of innovative and entrepreneurial talents, and establishing many new hi-tech enterprises known as core forces for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation. Statistics released in 2007 showed that China has 60,000 hi-tech enterprises and that their research and development input accounted for 45 percent of the total, with their production value occupying over 50 percent of China's total. Take the National Hi-tech Development Zones as an example. Over the past 20 years, they have incubated 605 listed enterprises and over 5,100 hi-tech enterprises, with an annual revenue exceeding 100 million Yuan, including more than 90 with an annual revenue exceeding five billion Yuan and 83 with an annual revenue exceeding ten billion Yuan.

 

3. Fruitful S&T Yields and World-amazing Results Made

 

Over the past 60 years since the founding of the New China, with great support from the government and thanks to the efforts of S&T personnel, great headway has been made in S&T undertakings, world-amazing S&T results have been achieved and national S&T strength significantly enhanced.

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 synthetic crystalline bovine insulin. Since China adopted its reform and opening up policies, our scientific and technological achievements have become even more remarkable. Between 1978 and 1997, China 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 1998, China succeeded in launching three satellites in one carrier rocket and thus became only the fourth country in the world to have mastered 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 reactors and fast neutron breeder reactors. Such technologies as the five-megawatt low temperature nuclear supply reactor, the Dayawan nuclear power station, atomic manoeuvre technology and atomic process technology, transgenic hybrid rice, as well as many others, are all at world advanced level. We have also made breakthroughs in high-density information storage research, and we have successfully developed the Milky Way-Ill high speed computer, as well as carrying out 6,000 meters deep-sea research by means of our own-developed underwater robot. All these bear witness to China's world level in the spheres of atomic energy, space technology, high-energy physics, biotechnology, computer sciences, and information technology.

Over the past 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, and especially the past 30 years following the initiation of the reform and opening-up policy, China has constantly increased its input into scientific and technological undertakings to ensure a national strategy for scientific and technological development and various programs of scientific and technological development are implemented smoothly. Financial input in the fields of science and technology and the number of scientific and technological personnel have both kept increasing, thus creating good conditions for the flourishing development of various S&T activities and the successful achievement of a large number S&T results. In recent years, the State has kept increasing its support for S&T innovation and input in the science and technology in respect of fiscal expenditure has increased year after year. In 2006, China's appropriate funds in the S&T undertakings reached 168.9 million Yuan, 26.1 times that of 1980, with an annual average increase of 13.4 percent. In 2006, China ranked 6th in the world after the US, Japan, Germany, France and Great Britain in financial input into national research and development.

Over the past 30 years since China implemented the reform and opening-up policy, human resources in the field of science and technology have seen rapid restoration and development. By the end of 2007, the state-owned enterprises and state institutions had 22.55 million specialized technical personnel falling under five categories--engineering technical personnel, agrotechnical personnel, scientific researchers, hygienic personnel, and teaching personnel, some 5.2 times that of 1978. At the same time, the national input in human resources has been increased, the level and quality of scientific and research personnel enhanced, and a team of S&T specialists with larger scale and higher level was formed. In 2007, some 4.544 million people were engaged in S&T activities, approximately twice that of 1991, meaning that China ranked in second place after the US in the number of its S&T personnel.

According to statistics, from 1981 to 2007, China achieved an accumulative total of 746,000 key S&T results above the provincial and ministerial level and awarded 842 national natural-cience prizes, 2,962 national technological-invention prizes and 10,099 national S&T advancement prizes. In the same period some 12 scientists, including Wu Wenjun, Yuan Longping, Wang Xuan, Huang Lun, Jin Yilian, Liu Dongsheng, Wang Yongzhi, Wu Mengchao, Ye Duzheng, Li Zhensheng, Min Enze and Wu Zhengyi won the National Top Science and Technology Award, which was initiated in 2000. A large number of the S&T results and S&T personnel who had made outstanding contributions were encouraged and rewarded. These important S&T results provide a technical guarantee for the development of an innovation-type country.

Basic research is the foundation for the steady growth of science and technology. It represents the original innovative capacity of a country and plays an important role in promoting the continuous development of its society and economy. In recent years, China has constantly increased its support in respect of basic research. According to statistics, China's expenditure on basic research has reached 17.45 billion Yuan nationwide, 9.7 times of that of 1995. The national input of human resources stands at 138,000 persons per year, 2.3 times of that of 1991. The original innovative capacity has been enhanced, great breakthroughs made in the fields of hybrid rice, high-performance computers, high-temperature super-conducter research, and human genome sequencing, and a large number of research results with originality and wide social influence have been achieved. Many original and innovative results in Nano-science, quanta information, life science and other front fields have exerted an important influence in the world; a significant number of innovative results in the fields of major disease prevention and cure, innovative drug synthesis, mineral resources prospecting and development, energy saving and emission reduction, climate change prediction, and other key fields with strategic demands, have all made a great contribution to the sustainable development of the economy and society; the settlement of some key scientific problems in the sphere of chemicals, steel, aluminum products, polymer materials, cement, and oil and gas prospecting and development, as well as various other sectors, have yielded outstanding economic and social returns. The discovery of new particles at the Beijing Electron Positron Collider, the precise measurement of the distance between the Milky Way Perseids Arm and the Solar System, the successfull development of metallic plastics, including a new type of Cerium-based metallic amorphous materials, the discovery of Chengjiang fauna fossils and the completion of the sequencing of rice chromosome 4, to say nothing of other basic research results, all demonstrate that China's fundamental research projects are realising active innovative stages. 

Over the past 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially over the past 30 years since China adopted its reform and open policies, its S&T capability has been greatly strengthened and a number of major results with profound influence achieved in various key areas and hi-tech fields.

In the field of spaceflight science, for instance, China has not only mastered the technologies of satellite reclaiming and one rocket carrying multiple satellites, but has also passed two new milestones: the "Shenzhou" spacecraft that China built independently were launched successfully, and especially the "Shenzhou-5," "Shenzhou-6" and "Shenzhou-7" manned spaceflights ended in success, thus making a great breakthrough in the manned space flight project; the Chang'e 1 moon probe project marked the great success of China's first lunar probe program, which indicates that China can truly begin to explore the new vistas of deep space.

In the field of information technology, the Galaxy series super computers have been successfully built. Meanwhile, the quantum error avoiding code has been universally recognized as the most exciting result in the field of quantum information, breakthrough progress has been made in the research into the ultrahigh density data storage in nano-electronics, a Chinese-designed and built 6000-meter submarine robot has completed its seabed survey task, the Shuguang 4000a, a supercomputer performing at a speed of 10 trillion times per second, has been officially adopted, and China's first home-grown 64-bit general-purpose CPU has gained ground.

In the field of biological science, China has made a significant breakthrough in hybrid rice technology, which will help solve the problem of food of tens of thousands of people. It has been the first to complete the mapping the contig map of the rice genome, accomplished one percent of the sequencing of the human genome, positioned and cloned the Human Hereditary, Sensorineural and High-frequency Hearing Impairment Gene, as well as the pathogenesis genes of entinogenesis imperfecta typeand porokeratosis, and achieved breakthrough progress in the goat cloned from an adult's body cells, plus genetically modified test-tube cattle, gene sequencing, and diagnosis and cure technologies for various major diseases.

In addition, China completed construction of the Three Gorges Dam Project. The reservoir successfully stored water, the permanent ship lock was open to navigation, and the first group of electric generating sets all put into production, with many indicators breaking world records in the field of hydraulic engineering. The Qinghai-Tibet railway was opened to the public, with the permafrost construction, a world-wide scientific problem, being at last solved. Taishan and Dayawan nuclear power plants were completed and put into use. A great number of influential, far-reaching results have been achieved in both new and traditional subjects such as material science, engineering, earth system science, new energy technology, atomic energy, and high energy physics.

 

4. Great Headway in Respect of Patent Undertakings

 

The patent application is an important indicator reflecting the innovative capacity and level of a country. China officially implemented the Patent Law of the People's Republic of China in 1985 to protect intellectual property rights, encourage inventions and promote S&T exchange. Over the past 20 years since the Patent Law was put into force, China's environment for intellectual property rights protection has been improved markedly, general consciousness of the S&T personnel for intellectual property rights protection significantly extended, and patent applications filed and patent applications granted have increased year after year. From 1985 to 2007, the annual average of patent applications filed and patent applications granted increased by 16.7 percent and 25 percent respectively. By the end of 2007, China's departments in charge of patent work have accepted an accumulative total of 3.315 million patent applications filed and have granted 1.79 million patents. In just one year, 2007, China accepted 586,000 domestic patent applications, some 25.4 times that of 1986, of which there were 153,000 applications of invention patents with higher technological content, 20.2 times that of 1986, and invention patent applications accounted for 26.1 percent. In 2007, China granted 302,000 patents, of which there were 32,000 invention patents, 354.9 times that of 1986 and invention patents accounted for 10.6 percent, some 7.4 percentage points higher than in 1986. According to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT International Patent Applications filed), which various major countries in the world joined, China filed 5,456 invention patent applications in 2007, making it jump to 7th place from the 22nd place it occupied in 1997.

As China's scientific research level has been constantly enhanced, in recent years the number of papers published by China's S&T professionals, both domestically and internationally, has increased annually, thus lessening the gap in this regard between China and other advanced countries. In 2006, Chinese-language S&T journals published 405,000 papers, a figure 4.6 times higher than that of 1990. According to the latest statistics included in the renowned international retrieval indicators, the SCI (Science Citation Index) included 71,000 Chinese papers in 2006, some 14.6 times the number in 1987, meaning that China lept to 5th place in 2006 from 24th in 1987 in the total number of papers published. Meanwhile, the EI (Engineering Index) included 36,000 Chinese papers in 2006, some 15.7 times more than in 1987, putting China all the way up to 2nd place in this regard from its previous position of 10th , and the ISTP (Index to Scientific & Technical Proceedings) included 65,000 Chinese papers in 2006, some 36.7 times the total in 1987, making China climb to 2nd place from 14th in this respect. From 2002 to 2006, some 692,000 of China's S&T papers included by the SCI were quoted, some 4.9 times more than for the period between 1995 and 1999.

 

5. Wide International Cooperation and Exchange of Science and Technology in China

 

Over the past 60 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially during the past 30 years since China adopted reform and opening-up policies, its scientific and technological sectors have implemented the same policy accordingly. There has been an ever increasing of cooperation and exchange with foreign countries in these sectors. Now China has established cooperative relations with 150 countries and regions and signed governmental science and technology cooperation or economic and technological cooperation agreements with nearly 100 different countries and regions. The non-governmental cooperation and exchanges are even more active. The Chinese Science Association and its subsidiaries have joined 244 international organizations, 293 Chinese scientists have taken the position of councilors in various international scientific and technological organizations at different periods, and 281 have taken leadership positions in such organizations. For example, 253 scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have taken positions in such organizations. The National Natural Science Fund has signed cooperative agreements and memoranda with 36 counterparts from other countries. In 1998, there were 22,000 scientific and technological cooperation and exchange projects between China and foreign countries on a government or non-governmental basis, with 70,000 personnel exchanges, 21 times and 121 times respectively that of 1978. In the past five years, China has introduced over 400,000 foreign experts and sent nearly 200,000 personnel abroad for study. These international cooperation and exchange projects have promoted the export of China's technology and its products. In 1998, China signed 2,500 technical export contracts, valued at US$ 6.69 billion, 5.4 times and 5.2 times those of 1991 respectively. As for imports, China signed 6,254 technical import contracts in 1998, totaling US$ 16.38 billion, 17.5 times and 4.7 times those of 1991 respectively. China's foreign cooperation and exchange have played an important role in raising China's science and technology levels as well as promoting its national economic growth.

Over the past 60 years since the founding of People's Republic of China, especially over the past 30 years since China adopted its reform and opening-up policies, the country has witnessed the flourishing development of S&T undertakings and has achieved a number of world-amazing results. This S&T development gives important support to China's economic development, social advancement, livelihood improvement and national security. China ranks first on the list of the developing countries across the whole spectrum of S&T advancement, with some scientific research fields also reaching the world-leading level. However, we should note that there still exist many problems in China's S&T development and a relatively significant gap in the S&T level in many fields compared with the developed countries. In today's world, S&T development changes rapidly. Science and technology have become the main impetus to support and lead economic development and the advancement of human civilization. Whoever leads the way in advanced science and technology will seize the initiative for economic and social development. This is an opportunity, as well as a challenge.

 

 

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