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China Index

Since emerging from the self-imposed isolation and selfreliance of the Cultural Revolution, China has expanded its international scientific exchanges to an unprecedented degree. The 1980s policy of opening up to the outside world, a basic element of Deng Xiaoping's prescription for modernization, was nowhere better exemplified than in science and technology policy (see China and the Four Modernizations, 1979-82 , ch. 1). The goal was to help China's science and technology reach international standards as quickly as possible and to remedy the damage done by the Cultural Revolution. This was achieved by participating in international conferences, cooperating in projects with foreign scientists, and sending thousands of Chinese graduate students and senior researchers to foreign universities for training and joint research.

Scientific cooperation has come to play a significant part in China's foreign relations and diplomatic repertoire. Visits of Chinese leaders to foreign countries are often marked by the signing of an agreement for scientific cooperation. In mid-1987 China had diplomatic relations with 133 countries and formal, government-to-government agreements on scientific cooperation with 54 of them (see An Overview of China's Foreign Relations , ch. 12). When diplomatic relations were established between China and the United States in January 1979, the Joint Commission in Scientific and Technological Cooperation was founded. Since then, the two governments have signed twenty-eight agreements on scientific and technical cooperation in fields ranging from earthquake prediction to industrial management. China has mutually beneficial scientific exchange programs with both technically advanced nations and those having only a minimal scientific capability. Although China tended to receive aid from more scientifically advanced nations and to render aid to the less developed, the equality implied in scientific exchange made it a useful diplomatic form.

In 1987 China had scientific-exchange relations with 106 countries--usually in the form of agreements between the China Association of Science and Technology and a foreign equivalent. Incomplete statistics indicated that by 1986 Chinese scientists had completed over 500 joint projects with scientists in the United States and were working on 1,500 projects with counterparts in various West European countries, 300 with those in Eastern Europe, and at least 30 with Japanese researchers. In June 1986 the Chinese Academy of Sciences signed an agreement with the Soviet Academy of Sciences for scientific cooperation in unspecified fields. Many exchanges with the United States involved Chinese-American scientists and engineers, who collaborated with visiting Chinese researchers in the United States and visited China to lecture on their specialties and to advise scientific bodies.

By 1986 the China Association of Science and Technology or its constituent associations were full members of 96 international scientific societies and committees, and over 300 Chinese scientists held office in international scientific bodies. China also was an active participant in United Nations scientific activities in the 1980s. Luoyang, Henan Province, is the site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's International Silt Research and Training Center, which specializes in problems of river silts. Apart from the 35,000 students China sent abroad for training between 1979 and 1986, approximately 41,000 Chinese scientists took part in various international exchanges. Between 1980 and 1986, China hosted 155 international academic conferences, which were attended by 10,000 foreign scholars and 30,000 Chinese participants. China also has employed substantial numbers of foreign experts, often retired scientists or engineers, as short-term consultants.

International exchanges represent one of the most successful aspects of the Chinese government's efforts to raise the level of science and demonstrate the strength of the centralized direction and funding possible under China's bureaucratic organization of science. The weaknesses of that mode of organization are evident in the less successful efforts to improve the internal functioning and productivity of the domestic science and technology establishment and have generated a major effort to reform that establishment.

Data as of July 1987

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