As of the 1980s, China has formulated a series of general programs for scientific and technological R&D, with the strategic aim of improving China's competitiveness in science and technology in the 21st century. The Key Technologies R&D Program, the 863 Program and the 973 Program have formed the main body of state programs for science and technology. The Spark and the Torch programs have been important in raising China's strength in this area.
Key Technologies R&D Program
The Key Technologies R&D Program, launched in 1982, was the biggest scientific and technological program in China of the 20th century. Oriented toward national economic construction, it aims to solve critical, direction-related and comprehensive problems in national economic and social development, covering agriculture, electronic information, energy resources, transportation, materials, resources exploration, environmental protection, medical and health care, and other fields. This program, engaging tens of thousands of researchers in over 1,000 scientific research institutions nationwide, has had the largest funding, employed the most people, and had the greatest impact on the national economy of any plan to date.
In March 1986, the National Hi-tech R&D Program (863 Program) was launched, after exhaustive examination by scientific experts. The program set 20 themes in biology, space flight, information, laser, automation, energy, new material and oceanography. Government's role is one of macro-control and support. The general direction of research is decided by scientists after discussion, and specific projects are decided by an committee of experts, responsible for keeping abreast of international research, and report annually on their own fields, so as to set new research directions. Another feature of the program is that its results can be quickly industrialized.
A national key program for development of basic scientific research, the 973 Program was launched in 1998. It mainly involves multi-disciplinary, comprehensive research on important scientific issues in such fields as agriculture, energy, information, environment of resources, population and health, and materials, providing theoretical basis and scientific foundation for solving problems. The program encourages outstanding scientists to carry out key basic research in cutting-edge science and important sci-tech issues in fields with a great bearing on economic and social development. Representing China's national goals, it aims to provide strong scientific and technological support for significant issues in China's economic and social development in the 21st century.
Launched in August 1988, the Torch Program is China's most important hi-tech industry program and a national guideline program. It includes: organizing and actioning development projects for hi-tech products with advanced technology levels and good economic benefits in domestic and foreign markets; establishing hi-tech industrial development zones throughout the country; and, exploring management systems and operation mechanisms suitable for the development of hi-tech industry. The program mainly involves projects in new technology fields, such as new materials, biotechnology, electronic information, integrated mechanical-electrical technology, and advanced and energy-saving technology.
Launched in 1986, the Spark Program aims to revitalize rural economy through development and popularization of science and technology in rural areas so as to improve the lives of the rural population. Today, there are more than 140,000 sci-tech demonstration projects being carried out in 90 percent of rural areas throughout China.