Home > China Facts > China Overview > Science and Technology

Science and Technology

Last updated by fabiowzgogo at 2016/12/16


China has been renowned for its centuries-scientific knowledge that has enhanced the modern research in some ways. But before 1950, only 500 scientists were engaged in scientific topics research in less than 50 advanced research institutions. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the country evolved in such a way that China is able to be set as an example for emerging and industrial countries.

It is agreed that China led the scientific world of science and technology of the premodern world from the 10th to the 15th centuries. But the research was concentrated in the medicine, the weaponry and the transport sectors. In fact, Chinese inventions such as the paper, porcelain, printing and the magnetic compass contributed effectively to the economic growth of Europe and America.

However, the world generally remained uninformed in optics, pharmacology and mathematics. But Science and Technology issued decrease progressively. During the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1368 to 1911, science and technology were abandoned and Chinese elites concentrates much more on literatures and arts. However, elites agree with the fact that there was a need to master the western military technology, especially after several and repeated defeats in the 1840’s and 1860.

China began a technology revolution during the 1860’s with the creation of military schools that were supposed to understand and develop better weapons and foreign-styled arsenals. In view of a better use of the Western knowledge associated with these issues, Chinese students were sent in advance schools of technology in Japan, US and Europe.

These students that have mastered the western technology had difficulties to adapt the knowledge within a country were Confucianism and all related traditions were threatened by scientists and engineers. Therefore, foreign science and technology was used to increase the military potential, but scientific ideas that contradict traditional philosophies and social values were rejected. This is how the famous slogan “Chinese learning is for essence, and Western learning is for utility” raised and expressed perfectly the country’s attitude towards foreign science and technology.

However, Chinese scientists contributed to the expansion of research, science and technology during the first two decades of the 1900’s. The Guomingdang government established in China in 1927 was the first to contribute to a better acknowledgement of technology schools and institutions in China. Several academies such as the Academia Sinica registered up to ten institutions with scientists that undertook research and advised the government on technological issues. For the first time, advanced research departments were even created in the Beijing Research Laboratory. They included pharmacology, biology, physics and many other departments. But the invasion and the civil war that began in 1937 was damaging foe many scientists who had to run out of the country or engage in battles. Many scientist choose to seek a better career abroad and never returned to China.

The Chinese Academy of Science for Encouraging Beginnings

Only a month after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China by Mao Ze Dong, the Chinese Academy of Sciences was created to enhance science and technology research and contribute to a better development of China. Later on, the number of research institutes increased dramatically: in 1955, the country were registering 840 technological institutes, and the number of scientists engaged in research projects passed from 50,000 in 1949 to 400,000 in 1956. This same year, the Chinese Science Planning Commission was set up and began to work on a 12-year program that contributed to the emerging of several enterprises and industries throughout the country. The first nuclear test conducted by the country in 1964 resulted from plans established by the Science Planning Commission.

It is evident that Chinese leaders involved themselves in the setting up of an ambitious science policy that aimed to develop the country. But the country reorganized its science policy along the Soviet model, since the country presented itself as a Communist country. The soviet influence was characterized by priorities research on applied military technology.

The Emerging Scientific Decade: 1966-1976

The scientific establishment that was deeply influenced by Soviets was attacked during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s. From 1966 to 1976, China enhanced a scientific revolution with new structures and mass participation. Researches undertaken during the decade concentrated on practical issues in industries and agriculture. Methods of investigation, and theoretical frameworks were established so as to develop science and technology in a more pragmatic way.

Mass experimentations encompass investigation and method of data collection with peasants who were encouraged to view themselves as scientists. One of the domains China focused on by the time was geological surveys. Chinese officials were interested in earthquake predictions and developed centres and institutes that established a strong reputation of geological research. Chinese geologists collected traditional wisdom stories on earthquake predictions and established networks of observers throughout the country that monitored signs such as strange behavior of animals.

The effects of the pragmatic framework of science and technology during the 1970’s have some negative consequences. For example, core research institutes were not able to conduct efficient researches on precise domains. Western scientists who visited China in the late 1970’s noticed that the petrochemical industry was characterized by many trials that were the consequences of poor theories and led to many errors. Little attention was given to specific analysis of modifying agents or underlying chemical properties.

Science and Technology

Rethinking of the Chinese scientific theories

The cultural revolution of the 1970’s attacks the poor theoretical framework that has led the Chinese scientific community for two decades. Eventually, officials were ready to enhance greater reforms and accelerate science and technology research on specific domains that have nothing more to do with military industry. In January 1975, Zhou Enlai, one of the most popular Chinese Premiers defined the overall goals of the future scientific results: modernize China in four specific domains, namely the modernization of industry, agriculture, national defense and science and technology. Under Deng Xiaoping government, policy documents were drafted. They proposal called from the re-importing of foreign technology and impose academic standard in technology and scientific schools and institutes.

The conference organized in March 1978 was a milestone in the Science and Technology History of China. It reunites more than 6,000 scientists specialized in various domains and was aimed to give proposals to support science and technology.

Another plan called the draft Eight-Year Plan for Development of Science and Technology proposed also the increase of the number of research workers and the development of specific fields such as laser science, high-energy physics and space flight.

Another commission codenamed the State Science and Technology Commission was created to develop research and projects in 8 domains which have contributed to the development of the current China. They include genetic engineering, high-energy physics, space sciences, lasers, computers, agriculture and energy.

Consequently, Chinese economic and industry growth was enhanced and the economic growth increased dramatically by the beginning of the 1980’s, especially in high-tech research and basic science. Some scientists have been renowned for their outstanding talents that contributed to the wealth of the country. Some of the most famous are Qian Xuesen, considered as the father of the Chinese missile. Li Siguang evolved the oil-production sector up to a certain level and helped China to become a major actor of the sector worldwide. Qian Sanqiang took in charge the Institute of Atomic Energy, and Yuan Longping has developed the production of the Chinese hybrid rice.

In the late 1980’s Chinese scientists specialized themselves by working in research institutes rather than in industrial companies. China was registering more than 10,000 advanced research institute at the time. They usually offered accommodations and necessary equipment to scientists.

The institutes were divided into 5 major systems called the “five main forces of China”. They included Chinese Academy of Sciences, Industrial branches, Institutes of higher learning, local research institutes and national defense departments. The sectors have little communication among them, and consequently, same works were replicated in many domains because of a lack of public sharing and communication.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences is the most prestigious agency specialized in natural sciences. The academy administered 120 local institutes based in Beijing or Shanghai. It operates with the elite of the Chinese University of Science and Technology and concentrates on research that is useful for immediate uses and meets international standards. The National Defense Science, Technology and Industry commission is another prestigious institute specialized in technology issues that can contribute to the military performances of the country. Militaries institute that work with the centre are reported to register the best-trained personnel of China. The commission have enhanced and achieved projects in nuclear weapons, and China deeply influences this domain at an international scale.

China leads the domain of Science and technology, and products of the country are exported worldwide. It is not by chance that the country is now considered as the major client of US when it comes to science and technology products. Even though improvements are needed in other sectors, it is evident that China has succeeded its technology revolution.

Science and Technology