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Hybrid Wheat Wins Scientist China's Top Prize
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China granted its State Scientific and Technological Award for 2006 Tuesday to scientist Li Zhensheng for his achievements in wheat breeding.

Chinese president Hu Jintao, along with other senior leaders, presented the top award to Li and other prizes to prominent scientists and enterprises that have made remarkable progress in technological innovation at the annual national science-technology prize awarding ceremony.

Li, the 10th recipient of this honor, was awarded 5 million yuan (US$600,000) at the ceremony; 500,000 yuan is allotted for him and 4.5 million for his research.

Li, born in 1931 in east China's Shandong Province, is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). His agricultural advances made through distant hybridization have contributed greatly to China's food security.

In 1979, Li successfully developed the fine wheat strain "Xiaoyan No. 6" that endures drought, withstands heat, and resists disease. The "Xiaoyan" series significantly boosted the country's crop production in following years.

Li has also introduced chromosome engineering to the breeding of wheat strains with a "nullisomic backcross method," which has reduced the duration of wheat breeding through distant hybridization to 3.5 years, whereas the previous breeding of "Xiaoyan" lasted 20 years.

"Science and technology plays a fundamental role in the country's modernization process," said Premier Wen Jiabao at the ceremony, adding that he believes the working and living conditions of scientists should be improved.

Wen highlighted the importance of strengthening science and technology education in primary and middle schools and encouraging the innovative spirit of students.

The project of China's third-generation fighter aircraft Jian-10 (Fighter-10) won a top technological progress award.

The fighter aircraft, developed by the China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I) after seven years of work, marks a breakthrough in China's research and development of heavy fighter aircraft.

Military observers say the Jian-10 can't match the United States' fourth-generation fighter aircraft in performance but its basic design and onboard equipment are comparable to those of mainstream fighter aircraft in the West.

Other award winners also included workers and farmers. One employee of Shanghai Baosteel Group, one employee from FAW-VOLKSWAGEN Co. Ltd, and an entrepreneurial farmer from central China's Henan Province shared second prize for the technological progress award for technical innovations.

Innovations from private enterprises accounted for more than 30 percent of the total number of prizewinners.

Che Chi-Ming from Hong Kong University won a first prize for his excellence in the research of metal ions-promoted organic transformations. It was the first time a Hong Kong scientist won the state science prize.

The ceremony was jointly held by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. Senior leaders Zeng Qinghong and Li Changchun also attended the event as presenters, joined by more than 3,000 science workers.

Since the State Scientific and Technological Award was established in 2000, ten Chinese scientists have received the five-million-yuan top award, including atmospheric physicist Ye Duzheng, a liver and gall specialist Wu Mengchao, hybrid rice developer Yuan Longping, mathematician Wu Wenjun and IT expert Wang Xuan.

Last year, China's total R&D spending reached 300 billion yuan (US$38.5 billion), an increase of 22 percent over the previous year, which accounted for a record 1.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The country's R&D spending should reach two percent of the GDP in 2010, according to the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). 

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2007)

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