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Address delivered during FORUM III

by Prof. LIN Quan
Secretary-General, Ministry of Science and Technology

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We are assembled here in the lovely city of Budapest for our common cause, which includes the advancement of science and the further promotion of peace and well-being of humankind. I am confident that this august meeting will leave a clear footprint in the course of human progress propelled by science, and play a significant guiding role in the next century. On behalf of the Chinese Delegation, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the Hungarian Government, UNESCO, ICSU and all those who have contributed to the conference.

Today, we find ourselves in an era of transformation. The springing up of information technology, biotechnology, new energy, advanced manufacturing technology and new materials has drastically changed our lifestyles and production modes, and profoundly enhanced productivity. Science and technology (S&T) advancement has received more and more attention and become a major indicator of comprehensive national strength. This is one reality that nobody could afford to neglect. With the advent of the knowledge-based economy, countries worldwide are focusing more on the role played by S&T in accelerating socio-economic development. Since adoption of the opening up policy in the late 1970s, China's comprehensive national capacity has strikingly increased. We have gained a variety of achievements in the fields of economy, S&T, culture and education. The Chinese government puts much emphasis on the development of S&T. The past two decades witnessed the enhancement of public understanding of science and S&T capacity. The integration of S&T and the economy effectively fuels economic growth. According to the statistics issued by the World Bank in 1998, China ranked 7th in GDP and 11th in international trade volume, with a foreign exchange reserve of over 140 billion dollars. However, socio-economic development in China is still hindered by various factors such as overpopulation, resource deficiency, eco-environmental degradation and a comparatively low level of technology in general. We face more severe challenges and difficulties on our road to modernization.

To meet the above challenges, China prioritizes S&T in our development strategy and formulated a state policy of ‘revitalizing the country through science and education’ in the early 1990s. The essence of the policy is to fully carry out the theory that S&T constitute the primary productive force. It also comprises ideas that we should treat education as the foundation while placing science and education in a prominent position in social and economic development. The anticipated result of the policy will be the strengthening of national science and innovation capacity and improvement of S&T and the cultural quality of the whole nation. In the coming century, China will firmly stick to that policy and shift economic construction onto the track of depending on scientific and technological progress and enhancing labor performance, so as to quicken the process of our prosperity.

Accordingly, we formulated medium- and long-term national S&T development strategies, and adopted the following approaches: the first step is the promotion of the ability to engage in independent innovation. In the national innovation system, enterprise is the core. Research institutes and universities lay the basis for innovation and the intermediary agencies serve as a bridge for transfer of knowledge. The function of government is to create a friendly environment for innovators. We are to conduct a Technology Innovation Conference at national level to initiate the national innovation program and implement the national innovation strategy.

Secondly, we plan to strengthen basic research and high-tech research and our development capacity and increase our technology reserve. The ‘National Basic Research Priorities Program’ is now in operation. Goals of the plan include fostering qualified personnel, improving the quality and ability of researchers, consolidating the academic position of our science community in major areas of basic research and emerging branches of S&T and interdisciplinary subjects. We hope to keep abreast of global developments in major fields and make some breakthroughs in certain fields with conducive conditions. All in all, it aims to continually strengthen our ability to handle pressing problems occurring in China's socio-economic development. Thirdly, we will increase the contribution rate of S&T in economy. Undoubtedly, the advancement of S&T will upgrade the comprehensive economic performance and optimize our economic structure, while agriculture, high-tech industries and their commercialization, the renovation of traditional industries and the information industry will also be influenced correspondingly.

Mr. Chairman, Science is a noble cause and should commit itself to improving the well-being of human beings. However, the reality today, and particularly the abuse of high technology in various inhumane operations, reminds us from time to time of the deep responsibility that the scientific community bears. Special attention should be paid to the discord in the chorus of peace and development. In an era featured by development and driven by science, the new knowledge arms both constructors and destroyers. It is self-evident that the principle of peaceful use of all S&T achievement should be upheld by all. We wish science to serve the cause of peace exclusively and bring benefit to mankind. This should be our ultimate pursuit when we enter into the 21st century. The current knowledge explosion can either be a solution to poverty alleviation or fuel added to expand the existing knowledge gap. The knowledge gap will result in wider differentiation between developed and developing nations. When we take delight in discussing the information highway, please do not neglect schools short of pencils and paper and villages lacking electricity and drinkable water. For the billions of poverty-stricken people, the information age with an ideal of knowledge for all looks like stars in the sky - within sight but beyond reach. At the turn of the century, we face severe challenges in maintaining peace, protecting the environment, alleviating poverty and preventing diseases, among others. The collective nature of these challenges is their trans-boundary influence. So joint efforts and extensive international cooperation are indispensable to our future.

Today, in the context of the integrated world economy and scientific development, advancement of S&T has also been globalized, with cooperation and exchange becoming a trend of the times. Moreover, S&T progress is an effective measure in poverty alleviation, and an inexhaustible resource of sustainable social and economic development. A closer linkage within the global village will enable us to achieve the maximum output with minimum input and rational allocation of resources.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to strengthening S&T cooperation. Up till now we have signed bilateral S&T cooperation agreements with 95 countries. In the area of international cooperation, we would like to make the following suggestions: On the basis of respect for sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit, we would like to conduct diversified bilateral or multilateral cooperation with all countries and international bodies. China owns affluent S&T resources and has established an integrated R&D system. This can be applied to facilitate international cooperation and contribute to the scientific cause which will benefit all global citizens; we agree with the wording of ‘science for peace and development’ in the draft paper of the Declaration and Framework for Action. Today, peace and development have become the mainstream of the world. The role science plays in safeguarding peace and promoting development should receive more attention; Science for peace and development should not be taken as idle talk. It will be manifested in our concrete actions. We propose that delegates take solid measures to implement the Framework for Action. We appeal to the developed countries to shoulder greater responsibility and support developing countries to enhance their S&T capacity and realize the goal of prosperity; such conduct as applying advanced technology to disturb the peaceful co-existence of humankind should be condemned jointly, so as to defend ethics and morality of science.

The scientific endeavor of China is inseparable from that of the world. Worldwide scientific initiatives such as those to combat environmental degradation and climate change will be incomplete without China's participation. In China's history of 5000 years, numerous scientific inventions were recorded, and they significantly influenced the pace of human progress. Among them the compass, powder, papermaking and printing are the four most-known ones. Chinese people cherish peace and understand that the goal of developing S&T is to boost living standards and establish an affluent, democratic and civilized modern country only.

Standing now on the threshold of a new millennium, we understand that the coming century will be a knowledge- and information-based one. Once a cradle of brilliant civilizations and homeland of great inventions, China in this new era is willing to cooperate with all peace-loving people and make constructive contributions to the establishment of a new epoch of science. Thank you.


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