In 1900, China had no modern science and technology. At that time, less than 10 people throughout China had learned calculus. In 2001, “Shenzhou II,” China’s unmanned spaceship was successfully launched and retrieved. The development speed of China’s science and technology in the previous 100 years was regarded as unprecedented. By early 21st century, China has remarkably narrowed the gap in general between its development level of high technology and the world’s advanced level. Over 60 percent of China’s technologies have approached the international advanced level, and 25 percent have greatly progressed, though still lagging behind the international advanced level.
Most of the changes took place in the latter half of the last century. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was established in November 1949, and in the 1960s, the number of the nation’s scientific research institutions increased to over 1,600, covering a wide range of major disciplinary and technological fields and employing some 200,000 professionals. After experiencing the 10-year turmoil of the “cultural revolution,” China’s political, economic, cultural, and scientific and technological developments entered a recovery period. The government re-formulated the outline of the national science and technology development plan. The number of important scientific and technological achievements in 1979 alone exceeded the total number of the previous 10 years. Since then, China’s scientific and technological development had entered a new period attracting worldwide attention. By the end of 2000, there were a total of 29.26 million professional technical personnel working in state-owned enterprises and institutions in China, of whom 2.81 million were engaged in scientific and technological activities, including 1.56 million scientists and engineers.
Meanwhile, the scientific quality of the general public has been increasing. According to an authoritative survey conducted by the State Statistics Bureau and the China Association for Science and Technology using the international index system and method for testing the scientific quality of the public, in the past five years the proportion of Chinese public with basic scientific quality has annually increased by 0.24 percentage point, from 0.2 percent in 1996 to 1.4 percent in 2001.
In 2001, the government decided to focus its science and technology work on promoting the upgrading of traditional industries, propelling hi-tech researches, strengthening basic researches, deepening reform in the system of science and technology, and building a state system of innovation. According to a state plan, by 2005, the R&D funds in the whole society will account for over 1.5 percent of the GDP, the R&D funds in enterprises will exceed 50 percent of that in the whole society, the R&D funds in new and high technology enterprises will be over five percent of their yearly sales income, and there will be as many as 900,000 scientists and engineers engaged in R&D. Meanwhile, the basic construction of science and technology will be gradually improved. By 2005, China will have a number of world-class scientific research bases, with both the level of industrial technology and its international competitiveness greatly increased. Basic researches and strategic hi-tech researches will have made breakthroughs, providing scientific and technological support for the harmonious development of population, resources and environment.