China's Science and Technology Plan

"As China implements its plan to improve scientific innovation, it will need to solve such political and economic problems as finding the proper balance between indigenous efforts and engagement with the global community.

"In January 2006, China initiated a 15-year 'Medium- to Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology.' The MLP calls for China to become an 'innovation-oriented society' by the year 2020, and a world leader in science and technology (S&T) by 2050. It commits China to developing capabilities for "indigenous innovation" (zizhu chuangxin) and to leapfrog into leading positions in new science-based industries by the end of the plan period...In all likelihood, the MLP will have an important impact on the trajectory of Chinese development; it thus warrants careful attention from the international community...

The MLP is remarkable in a variety of ways...The MLP addresses four critical problems in China's scientific and technological development. First, despite the country's remarkable economic accomplishments, its record of innovation in commercial technologies has been weak, even considering recent improvements in its patenting performance. Instead, its dependence on foreign technology has grown consistently over the past 20 years...Hence the emphasis on indigenous innovation and the need to create an innovation-oriented society.

Second, Chinese technological capabilities have been failing to meet the nation's needs in such areas as energy, water and resource utilization, environment protection, and public health. The negative environmental consequences of 25 years of rapid economic growth cannot be overestimated...China's quest for energy will only increase in the coming years and will require new conservation technologies, novel energy sources, and the procurement of more conventional energy supplies. In short, broad areas of social needs cannot possibly be managed without increasingly sophisticated technology.

Third, the technological challenges of providing for the national defense furnish another powerful impetus for the initiation of the MLP...

The fourth critical problem addressed by the MLP is the state of Chinese science...Despite the swelling ranks of research personnel and increasingly generous funding, the research system's performance has not lived up to expectations. Many of China's best and brightest have sought career opportunities abroad, and despite an array of incentives offered by various national and local entities, China has had difficulty attracting them back...

As with so many other aspects of Chinese life, such as the deteriorating environment, China is in a race to acquire the knowledge and wealth necessary to solve or ameliorate its problems before they become overwhelming. The MLP represents a strategy for winning that race and ensuring the country's long-term competitiveness in the face of the rapid and dramatic changes happening in the world of S&T.

Read more in this article from physicstoday.org