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Major Scientific and Technological Achievements of New China (1949-2009)

(September 17,2009)

Ministry of Science and Technology

Over the past six decades since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, tremendous changes have taken place and China has made substantial progress in developing her scientific and technological (S&T) strength. As always, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government have given strategic importance to science and technology, which is evident in a series of major decisions and arrangements at defining moments. In different periods, China highlighted judgments like “Marching towards Science”, “Science and Technology are the First and Foremost Productivity”, and national strategies such as “Rejuvenate the Nation through Science and Education”, and “Build an Innovative Country”. Through unremitting efforts over those sixty years, today’s China is a big player in the S&T arena with a comprehensive system for S&T development, the largest pool of S&T professionals, and an ever-growing number of S&T achievements. Looking back on those sixty years, China started to develop science and technology during tough times, made headways in the course of reform, and stimulated S&T advancement through innovation. Science and technology have significantly enabled China to grow the national economy, expedite social progress, upgrade people’s living standards, and ensure national security.

Major S&T achievements of China in the past six decades are demonstrated in the following eight aspects.

I      A comprehensive modern system for S&T advancement has been put into place. China is among a few countries that have established a modern system to foster a full range of academic disciplines. Thanks to such a system, resources are distributed in a rational way, enabling players at various levels such as national research institutes, institutions of higher learning, local research bodies and different types of enterprises to contribute to national S&T advancement, promoting the development of basic research, frontier technology research, social welfare research, as well as the R&D and commercialization of applicable technologies. In the meanwhile, the Chinese government has substantially increased the input into S&T development, improving the research environment and providing better infrastructure. In 2008, the R&D expenditure of China accounted for 1.52% of GDP. At present, China is at a leading position among developing countries in terms of overall S&T strength. Globally, the country is a front-runner in certain fields.

II    A large team of qualified S&T professionals has been fostered.

In the course of sixty years, China has developed an ever-growing team of S&T professionals. Currently in the country, the aggregate number of S&T professionals is 42 million, second to none in the world; the total of full-time equivalent (FTE) R&D personnel is 1.9 million, ranking second globally. The country has built a large team of fine S&T professionals which guarantees strong research capacity and a rich reserve of human resources.

III   Significant improvement has been made in research capacity.

China boasts important research findings in a number of fields, such as continental theory of petroleum origin, synthetic bovine insulin, Goldbach conjecture, high temperature superconducting, nano materials, quantum communications, and life sciences. The country has also made breakthroughs in cutting-edge domains like super hybrid rice, high-performance computing, Chinese-character laser phototypesetting, 3G mobile communications, etc. In 2008, China ranks No. 3 in terms of SCI paper publication and No. 4 in terms of invention patent grants.

Ⅳ S&T breakthroughs have been scored in a host of major projects. After the founding of new China, the country successfully exploded her first atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb, and launched her first man-made satellite under tough conditions. In the new century, impressive achievements have been scored in manned spaceflight and lunar probe projects. A number of S&T bottlenecks have been overcome in major engineering projects such as Three Gorges, West-to-East Gas Transmission, West-to-East Electricity Transmission and Qinghai-Tibet Railway, greatly contributing to the national economic development.

Ⅴ Hi-tech industry has witnessed a boom. China’s hi-tech industry has experienced robust development. In 2008, the added value generated by the hi-tech industry accounted for 10.2% of the total, and its export volume took 29.1% of the total. By pooling resources and driving the development of other sectors, the 56 national hi-tech parks have become important bases of hi-tech industries. Their energy consumption for per unit of GDP accounts for a mere 40% of the national average, and a large number of dynamic hi-tech enterprises have taken root within the parks.

Ⅵ Visible progress has been achieved in promoting science and technology for the benefit of the public. Important results have been made in agricultural S&T innovation: over 8,000 new crop varieties have been bred; thanks to major S&T projects in agriculture, such as the spread of cross-breeding rice and facilitation of bumper harvest in grain, the coverage rate of major fine crop varieties nationwide has reached more than 95%, and comprehensive grain productivity has greatly improved. With less than 10% of the world’s land, China has fed 22% of the world’s total population. Important S&T innovations have been made in the prevention and control of major diseases and epidemics, and development of new drugs. Technological breakthroughs have been achieved in the fields of resources and environment, public safety, disaster prevention and mitigation. This has provided strong S&T support for tackling public health emergencies such as SARS, influenza epidemic and A /H1N1 flu, and major natural disasters such as Wenchuan earthquake.

Ⅶ Efforts are well under way to build a national innovation system. With deepening reform, our S&T system has undergone great changes, featuring optimized disciplinary structure, closer marriage between S&T and economy, and ever-improving mechanisms for S&T management and operation. Breakthroughs have been made in the building of an enterprise-centered and market-driven technological innovation system, combining the roles of industry, academia and research institutes. Various regional innovation systems have taken shape, and S&T has played an increasingly important role in promoting socio-economic development. A series of pro-innovation laws and regulations have been introduced, including Law on Science and Technology Progress, Patent Law, Law on Promotion of Commercialization of Research Findings, and Law on Science and Technology Popularization. A host of activities are in full swing to carry forward scientific spirit and spread scientific knowledge. In this way, the scientific literacy of the general public has greatly improved.

Ⅷ International S&T cooperation has witnessed new developments. China has already built collaborative ties in science and technology with 152 countries and regions, among which 97 have signed 104 inter-governmental agreements with China. At the same time, there are many non-governmental S&T activities taking place. The Chinese S&T professionals have joined about 1,000 international academic organizations, and are playing important roles in such big science projects as Human Genome Project, Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System, and International Thermal-Nuclear Experimental Reactor. China has also initiated cooperation programs on Traditional Chinese Medicine and new and renewable energy, set up a number of advanced innovation parks, joint R&D centers as well as demonstration bases for S&T cooperation. The government is offering S&T aid to less developed countries, and encourages the research institutes and companies to "Go Global".

In the past six decades, generations of Chinese compatriots in the S&T sector have worked for the prosperity of the country and the rejuvenation of the nation. They are innovative, truth seeking and devoted, making great contributions to the S&T development of China and the world.

The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China identified "enhancing innovation capacity & building an innovative country" as the core of national development strategy and the key of improving comprehensive national power. Now China is standing at a new starting point and the government has prioritized S&T advancement, therefore, the S&T undertaking is bearing heavy historical responsibilities. We should rally more closely around the Party Central Committee led by President HU Jintao, hold high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adhere to the guidance of DENG Xiaoping Theory and Three Represents and follow the Scientific Outlook on Development. By taking the opportunity of S&T revolution, we should implement the Outline of National Medium- and Long-term Science and Technology Development Program, so as to improve our innovativeness, build an innovative country, and do our best to realize a well-off society and the revival of the Chinese nation.