Beginning in the 1980s, China formulated a series of general programs for scientific and technological research and development, aiming to improve China's competitiveness in science and technology in the 21st century. The Key Technologies R&D Program, 863 Program and 973 Program have formed the main body of the state programs for science and technology. The Spark Program and Torch Program have also played an important role in raising China's strength in science and technology.
Key Technologies R&D Program
The Key Technologies R&D Program was launched in 1982 as the largest science and technology program in China in the 20th century. Oriented toward national economic construction, it aims to solve the key and comprehensive problems directing the 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 persons from more than 1,000 scientific research institutions nationwide, has been so far the largest national scientific and technological plan that has been invested with most funds, employed most personnel, and made the greatest impact on the national economy.
In March 1986, after several hundred Chinese scientists made a thorough study, the National Hi-tech R&D Program (or 863 Program) was launched. The program includes 20 themes, such as biotech, space flight, information, laser, automation, energy, new material and marine. In the operation of the program, the main functions of the government departments are macro-control and service. The general direction of research is decided by scientists after discussion, and specific projects are decided by a committee of experts, whose responsibility is to closely observe the latest development of the international scientific research, and submit an annual report on investigations in their own fields, so as to set new research directions. Another distinctive feature of the program is that its results can be quickly used in industries.
A national key program for development of basic scientific research, the 973 Program began to be implemented in 1998. It mainly involves multi-discipline, comprehensive researches on important scientific issues in such fields as agriculture, energy, information, environment of resources, population and health, and material, providing theoretical basis and scientific foundation for solving problems. The program encourages outstanding scientists to carry out key basic scientific researches regarding cutting-edge sciences and important issues in science and technology in fields with great bearing on economic and social development. Representing the national goals, it is aimed 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, Torch Program is China's most important program of high-tech industries. As a guiding program of China, it includes: organizing and carrying out projects of developing high-tech products with high technological standards and good economic benefits in domestic and foreign markets; establishing some high-tech industrial development zones around China; exploring management systems and operation mechanisms suitable for hi-tech industrial development. The program mainly includes projects in new technological fields, such as new material, biotechnology, electronic information, integrative mechanical-electrical technology, and advanced and energy-saving technology.
Launched in 1986, the Spark Program aims to revitalize rural economy through science and technology and to popularize science and technology in rural areas. Today, there are more than 100,000 scientific and technological demonstration projects being carried out in 85 percent of rural areas throughout China.