In 1949, there were no more than 50,000 scientific and technical personnel in China, of whom just over 500 were engaged in scientific research, and there were only 40-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 established covering various industrial sectors nationwide. By 1955, a total of 840 scientific and technological research institutes had been set up, and the number of scientific and technical personnel had increased to over 400,000.

In 1956, the State Council set up the Science Planning Commission, which started to work out the first long-term program, the 12-Year Program for Scientific and Technological Development (1956-67). Many items of new technology were developed, and many new industries and enterprises emerged, one after the other, and grew steadily.

In October 1964, China successfully conducted its first nuclear test, which showed the high level of attainments of Chinese scientific and technical personnel, that China’s science and technology in these fields had reached fairly high levels and that China basically had the capability to conduct advanced scientific research independently.

China's first pilot center for testing new energy sources was established in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The ball-like
structure in this picture
is the major project
of the center.

However, during the “cultural revolution” (1966 to 1976), China’s vigorously developing scientific and technical undertakings were seriously damaged, and scientific and technical work was paralyzed.

After the ten-year chaos, the state transferred its focus of work to the modernization drive. Within a fairly short period of time, a group of academic, scientific and technological administration and scientific research institutes were restored or reestablished. The State Science and Technology Commission took charge of working out a new program—the National Compendium on Scientific and Technological Development (1978-1985) (Draft). In the Compendium, from the major projects, eight comprehensive areas of research were singled out as the key ones. The eight areas of research are agriculture, energy, materials, computers, lasers, space science, high-energy physics and genetic engineering. According to statistics, the main scientific and technological achievements of 1979 were greater than those of the previous ten years.

In 1995, the National Science and Technology Conference was held, and China began to carry out the development strategy of “rejuvenating the nation by relying on science and education.” In the 20 years since 1980, China’s science and technology undertakings, aiming at the world’s advanced levels, have developed rapidly along a wholesome road and made the following striking achievements: 1) Solving a batch of key technical problems arising in the course of national economic construction; 2) Making considerable progress in high-tech research and the industrial application of new and high technologies; 3) Attaining marked successes in transferring scientific and technological findings to production; 4) Gradually deepening the reform of the overall scientific and technological system; 5) Contributing to international progress in research into basic science; 6) Continuously expanding the scope of opening science and technology to the outside world; 7) Basically setting up a team of trans-century scientific and technical workers; and 8) Continuously improving the system of scientific and technological laws, rules and regulations.

During half a century of development, a large number of outstanding Chinese scientific and technical experts have created wealth for the country by applying their wisdom and talents. Of them, the most notable representatives are Li Siguang, who helped China remove the label of being an oil-poor country; Qian Xuesen, who was the “father of Chinese missile”; Qian Sanqiang, who took charge of establishing the Institute of Atomic Energy; Tang Aoqing, who was the pioneer of quantum chemistry in China; Yan Longping, who made great contributions to developing hybrid rice; and Wang Xuan, who is leading the technical revolution in the Chinese newspaper and printing industries.

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Last updated: 2000-07-13.