China will build quality laboratories, nurture top talent, take part in more international projects and improve policies for basic science projects to become a global technological powerhouse by 2050, officials said on Feb 11.
The new efforts feature in a document published by the State Council on how to comprehensively improve basic science research capabilities.
“It aims to address China’s lack of groundbreaking and original basic scientific research, remedy the shortfall in top-tier scientific talent, and effectively confront increasingly complex social and economic challenges,” said Huang Wei, vice-minister of science and technology.
By 2050, China aims to be one of the world’s primary scientific research and innovation centers, with a huge output of original, groundbreaking research from world-class scientists, he said.
Ye Yujiang, director of basic research at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said China has entered a robust phase of scientific development in the past five years with increasing investment in high-quality scientific papers. Total investment in basic research rose from 49.9 billion yuan ($7.92 billion) in 2012 to 82.3 billion yuan in 2016, he said. The total number of science paper citations－a key indicator of a country’s research capability－also jumped from fourth worldwide in 2016 to second in 2017, trailing only the United States.
China’s chemistry, material sciences, physics, engineering, math and geology are close to leading the world, he said.
From stars in distant galaxies to proteins in biology, “Chinese scientists are tackling a wider range of science fields than ever”, Huang said. “While these exciting developments might usher the world into a new age of scientific discovery, they also bring new challenges, such as turning more obscure and cutting-edge research into applications with great economic impact.”
Zhang Xiaoyuan, director of resources and management at the ministry, said research has led to new products that have brought great economic and social progress.
The ministry will encourage authorities, companies and civilian groups to participate in basic science research, including letting local governments or companies fund or commercialize major science projects according to their needs and abilities, he added.