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China's 15-year Science and Technology Plan



China is looking forward to implement a 15 year 'Medium-to-Long-Term Plan (MLP) for the Development of Science and Technology' that will help in improving scientific innovation of the country. The plan will help to solve political and economic problems such as finding the proper balance between indigenous efforts and engagement with the global community. The MLP builds on important policy initiatives including the 1995 commitment to strengthen the nation through science, technology, and education, and the notion of empowering the nation through talent. It focuses on the expansion of basic research, that includes the development of new disciplines and interdisciplinary areas, science frontiers, and fundamental research in support of major national strategies. The MLP will also provide an insight into the proper balance between indigenous efforts at research and innovation on the one hand and effective involvement with global technology flows and development on the other.
38 December 2006 Physics Today
2006 American Institute of Physics, S-0031-9228-0612-010-4
In January 2006, China initiated a 15-year “Medium- to
Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Tech-
nology.” The MLP calls for China to become an “innovation-
oriented society” by the year 2020, and a world leader in sci-
ence 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 sci-
ence-based industries by the end of the plan period. Accord-
ing to the MLP, China will invest 2.5% of its increasing gross
domestic product in R&D by 2020, up from 1.34% in 2005;
raise the contributions to economic growth from technologi-
cal advance to more than 60%; and limit its dependence on
imported technology to no more than 30%. The plan also calls
for China to become one of the top five countries in the world
in the number of invention patents granted to Chinese citi-
zens, and for Chinese-authored scientific papers to become
among the world’s most cited. In all likelihood, the MLP will
have an important impact on the trajectory of Chinese de-
velopment; it thus warrants careful attention from the inter-
national community.
Preparation for the MLP began in 2003. At that time more
than 2000 scientists, engineers, and corporate executives
were mobilized into a program of “strategic research” to
identify critical problems and research opportunities in
20 areas considered to be of central importance for China’s
future. Box 1 lists those areas, which include advanced man-
ufacturing, agriculture, basic science, energy, human re-
sources, and national defense.
In contrast to earlier planning efforts, the preparations—
at least at the outset—were remarkably open. In particular,
they included social scientists (mainly economists) and for-
eign scholars. Eventually, that openness gave way to a more
secretive process in which the bureaucracy massaged the re-
ports of the 20 working groups, attempted to reach compro-
mises, and drafted the public version of the MLP. By most ac-
counts, the drafting process was contentious and unusually
drawn out. At one point, the onerous process of narrowing
the plan’s focus and setting priorities required direct inter-
vention by China’s premier, Wen Jiabao.
Technological problems
The MLP is remarkable in a variety of ways. It builds on im-
portant policy initiatives launched in the past 25 years, in-
cluding the 1995 commitment to strengthen the nation
through science, technology, and education and the more re-
cent notion of empowering the nation through talent. Under
rubrics such as those, China has made great efforts in the past
several years to advance its science and education. As figure 1
shows, those efforts include increased expenditures on R&D,
and they have led to growing numbers of scientists and
engineers engaged in R&D (figure 2) and increased enroll-
ments in higher education (figure 3). Also, as evidenced by
new initiatives pertaining to intellectual property law, tech-
nology standards, and venture capital, the nation has begun
to take seriously the notion of technological innovation as a
complex, systemic problem.
Despite the many signs of progress in China’s S&T, the
MLP comes at a time of serious concern about the nation’s de-
China’s 15-year
science and
technology plan
Cong Cao, Richard P. Suttmeier, and Denis Fred Simon
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.
Cong Cao is a researcher at the University of Oregon in Eugene and at the State University of New York’s Neil D. Levin Graduate
Institute of International Relations and Commerce in New York City. Richard P. Suttmeier is a professor of political science at the Uni-
versity of Oregon. Denis Fred Simon is provost and vice president for academic affairs at the Levin Institute.
Agricultural science and technology
Basic science
Conditions, platforms, and infrastructures for S&T
Culture for innovation and S&T popularization
Ecology, environment protection, and recycled economy
Energy, resources, and ocean S&T
Human resources for S&T
Input and management model S&T
Law and policies for S&T development
Modern manufacturing development S&T
Modern services industry S&T
National defense S&T
Overall strategy for medium- to long-term S&T
Population and health S&T
Public security S&T
Regional innovation system
S&T system reform and national innovation system
Strategic high technology and industrialization of high
and new technology
Transportation S&T
Urban development and urbanization S&T
Box 1. The 20 topics of strategic research in
China’s 15-year science plan December 2006 Physics Today 39
velopment. China’s leaders have pledged to make the nation
an “overall well-off society” (quanmian xiaokang shehui), with
a per-capita income of $3000 by 2020, up from $1000 in 2002.
Achieving that goal will require continued rapid economic
growth. The leadership, however, is aware that the high-
speed growth of the past 25 years—with its overinvestment,
inefficient use of resources, and the devastating effect on the
environment—cannot be sustained. The path to creating the
overall well-off society will necessarily be characterized by
technological innovations supporting greater efficiency and
productivity, and institutional innovations supporting im-
provements in governance—greater market discipline and
integrity, less government corruption, and greater adminis-
trative accountability.
The MLP addresses four critical problems in China’s sci-
entific 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 per-
formance. Instead, its dependence on foreign technology has
grown consistently over the past 20 years. In part, that de-
pendence was a consequence of the state’s “market for tech-
nology” strategy, which was intended to entice multinational
corporations to transfer technology in return for market op-
portunities. The policy, arguably, was quite successful in
helping to make China the manufacturing center of the world
and in stimulating the impressive rapid growth of China’s
high-technology exports.
However, Chinese leaders have concluded that the pol-
icy may have run its course. It has become increasingly ob-
vious to them that those who own the intellectual property,
and who control technical standards, enjoy privileged posi-
tions in, and profit most from, international production net-
works. In addition, as a result of continued conflicts with the
US and other countries over intellectual property rights and
standards, China has concluded that current patterns of con-
trol over those areas may not serve China’s interests. Rather,
they work to serve the international leaders in innovation.
Thus, the Chinese industrial economy of the 21st century
should, in this view, set its own standards and generate
and incorporate its own IPR.
Hence the emphasis on in-
digenous 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.
And continued environmental degradation over the next 15
years, such as may result from the controversial Three Gorges
Dam shown in figure 4, would make a mockery of any claims
that an overall well-off society had been achieved—whether
or not per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) targets are
reached. China’s quest for energy will only increase in the
coming years and will require new conservation technolo-
gies, novel energy sources, and the procurement of more con-
ventional energy supplies. In short, broad areas of social
needs cannot possibly be managed without increasingly so-
phisticated technology.
Third, the technological challenges of providing for the
national defense furnish another powerful impetus for the
initiation of the MLP. Despite China’s nuclear weapons and
space achievements, its overall capability for defense-related
technological innovation has, until recently, not been formi-
dable. As with civilian production technology, the modern-
ization of Chinese military technology has largely depended
on imports from abroad. China has come to realize the im-
portance of dual-use technologies, which can be utilized for
peaceful purposes or in 21st-century high-technology war-
fare, and the country has begun to exploit the opportunities
that dual use offers. But imported dual-use technology, es-
pecially more sophisticated know-how, is subject to export
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
GERD (billions of renminbi)
Figure 1. China’s gross expenditure
on R&D (GERD) has steadily grown
since 1998, both in absolute terms
(purple histogram bars) and as a
percentage of the gross domestic
product (blue curve). Absolute
expenditures are given in renminbi:
1 US dollar is worth about
8.3 RMB. (Source: ref. 9.)
Figure 2. The number of scientists
and engineers engaged in R&D in
China has increased yearly since
1998. (Source: ref. 9.)
40 December 2006 Physics Today
restrictions—above all from the US. Hence, foreign suppliers
would be an unreliable source of critical technologies; again,
the need for indigenous innovation seems self-evident.
Science challenges
The fourth critical problem addressed by the MLP is the state
of Chinese science. As with the nation’s technology, Chinese
science has contained its disappointments. Despite the
swelling ranks of research personnel and increasingly gener-
ous 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. True, some
overseas-based Chinese scientists are concerned about the
development of S&T in their native country and have con-
tributed in various ways. But the way overseas Chinese tal-
ent is used at home has occasionally been controversial. In
some cases, the high salaries and material incentives used for
recruitment to Chinese institutions have been abused. Re-
searchers have enjoyed the salaries without fulfilling the ob-
ligations of appointments, while their employing institutions
remained satisfied to use the names and publications of those
“star scientists” to improve their evaluations and qualify for
increased funding.
Simply stated, quantitative gains in Chinese research
productivity have not always been matched by qualitative
gains. The resources committed to scientific research have, in
fact, led to rapid growth of Chinese-authored papers in Sci-
ence Citation Index–cataloged journals, but their contribution
as measured by citations has been disappointing.
China has
yet to establish a research tradition that is both conducive to
creative achievements and tolerant of creative failures. Sci-
entists have often been preoccupied with quick outcomes and
immediate returns, and brain drain has slowed the develop-
ment of high-level scientific leadership. Research is too often
derivative in nature, which wastes resources and discourages
creativity and independent thinking. Scientific misconduct of
various types is seemingly widespread and often covered up
and protected.
Thus, when China began preparations for the MLP in
2003, it did so from a position of considerable scientific and
technological progress—but progress filled with soft spots in
areas of critical national need. As the importance of science
and innovation for 21st-century China gained high-level po-
litical attention, the Chinese turned to their legacy of science
planning as the way to move toward the nation’s future as-
pirations. In particular, they were inspired by the most cele-
brated of the past science plans, the 12-year plan (1956–67),
which helped lay the foundation for modern science in
China. Included among the achievements of that earlier plan
were China’s successes in its nuclear-weapons and space
(liangdan yixing) programs. The 12-year plan was character-
ized by the central government’s identification of priority
projects and the mobilization of resources to work on them.
The same features characterize the MLP as well.
Structure and content
The MLP consists of a number of components. The first of
them sets out guidelines and principles derived from the ob-
jectives of having S&T lead future economic development.
One of those principles, zizhu chuangxin or indigenous inno-
vation, has led to considerable confusion inside China and
abroad. In its ambiguity—zizhu chuangxin may also be trans-
lated as independent or homegrown innovation—it has been
construed by some as a regression to the self-defeating
techno-nationalist notions of self-reliance (zili gengsheng)
from the Maoist period, during which Chinese research and
innovation were largely cut off from the international com-
munity and consequently were significantly retarded.
The continuous debates, inside and outside the country,
over the meaning of the term led one senior official from the
Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to suggest that
it might be best simply to talk about innovation without any
attached modifiers. In explicating the concept, however, the
MLP points to zizhu chuangxin as having three components:
genuinely original innovation; integrated innovation, the fus-
ing together of existing technologies in new ways; and “re-
innovation,” which involves the assimilation and improve-
ment of imported technologies.
A second component of the MLP identifies the plan’s pri-
ority areas and programs. As seen in box 2, those include 11
broad key areas pertaining to national needs and 8 areas
of frontier technology. Within those areas, the MLP identifies
a series of priority projects. For instance, under the new-
materials area of frontier technology, the plan includes work
on smart materials, high-temperature superconducting tech-
nology, and energy-efficient materials.
In addition to priority areas, the MLP identifies a series
of governmentally funded, conceived, and directed
“megaprojects” in engineering and science (also listed in
box 2). As discussed further below, those programs have been
a controversial aspect of the MLP. Their inclusion, though, re-
flects the legacy of science planning in China, especially the
continuing influence of the liangdan yixing programs on Chi-
nese thinking about S&T planning. The MLP also calls for an
expansion of basic research, to include development of new
disciplines and interdisciplinary areas, science frontiers, and
fundamental research in support of major national strategies.
Although agriculture, energy, the environment, health,
and resources receive unprecedented attention in the MLP,
the physical sciences underlie many priority areas such as
new materials. Most of the 13 engineering megaprojects are
directly related to the physical sciences; the program in core
Figure 3. Student enrollments in
Chinese higher education have
risen since 1998 at both the
graduate (purple) and under-
graduate (blue) levels. (Source:
ref. 9.) December 2006 Physics Today 41
electronic components, high-end generic chips, and basic
software is an example. Physical scientists will also play an
important role in the development of frontier technologies,
and two of the four science megaprojects—quantum research
and nanotechnology—are in the physical sciences. Moreover,
protein science, another science megaproject, will take ad-
vantage of modern facilities built for nuclear magnetic reso-
nance analysis.
Athird component of the plan deals with ongoing reforms
in S&T and the further development of an integrated national
system of institutions supportive of research creativity and
technological innovation. It highlights important objectives
pertaining to the continued reform of several government re-
search institutes, changes in the management of S&T, and the
need to encourage Chinese industrial enterprises to assume a
leading role in the nation’s innovation system. Furthermore, it
includes policies to promote industrial research and support
for small and medium-sized enterprises. The new emphasis on
the central role of industry reflects growing concerns that
China’s companies are not generating enough intellectual cap-
ital to support the introduction of new, commercially viable
products and services.
An article in the Chinese People’s Daily, for instance, calls
attention to a recent survey indicating that Chinese industrial
enterprises “aren’t taking research and development seri-
ously,” as 75% of them do not employ anyone to conduct it.
The survey report points out that in Harbin, the industrial
center of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, only 8.3%
of large and medium-sized enterprises state that they are
spending at least 5% of sales revenue on R&D. Another 14.1%
say R&D investment has reached 3% of sales. According to
the article, “The report blames the system of performance ap-
praisal of state-owned enterprises, noting that it emphasizes
increasing the value of state-owned assets but lacks criteria
to appraise the technological innovation of enterprises.” The
survey also says that of China’s fiscal input on S&T, only 10%
goes to support the scientific and technological innovations
of industrial enterprises.
The final sections of the MLP deal with a policy frame-
work for the plan’s implementation. That framework includes
preferential taxation, high-technology industry zones, and the
assimilation of foreign technology. It also includes important
policies to strengthen and diversify funding for S&T, make ex-
penditures more efficient, and
develop the nation’s human re-
sources for S&T. In particular, the
plan recommends the cultivation
of world-class senior experts, the recruitment of talents work-
ing abroad, an expanded role for scientists and engineers in in-
dustry, reforms in education to support the goals of greater cre-
ativity and innovation, and the strengthening of intellectual
property protection for Chinese innovators.
The development of the MLP involved participants from
across China’s S&T community, touched many local and na-
tional interests, and was not without conflict. One important
issue concerned the critical relationship between indigenous
innovation and technology imports. Some Chinese econo-
mists argued strongly that at China’s current level of eco-
nomic development and comparative advantage, the MLP
should focus on maintaining China’s status as the world’s
leading manufacturing base and that the most cost-effective
way to upgrade China’s technological capabilities would be
to continue to encourage technology transfers from multina-
tional corporations.
Most members of the technical community rejected that
thinking and argued that foreign corporations could no
longer be counted on to transfer technologies, especially ad-
vanced technologies needed by increasingly sophisticated
Chinese manufacturers. They claimed that China’s technical
gains from multinational corporations were disappointing
and noted that with its accession to the World Trade Organi-
zation, China had given up some of the policy tools it had
used to leverage foreign interest in Chinese investment op-
portunities for access to technology. In addition, China had
become increasingly dissatisfied with the relative gains it was
accruing from its role in the international industrial economy.
The royalties Chinese firms had to pay for foreign technol-
ogy cut into already slim profit margins and often seemed
excessive. China certainly cannot ignore the reasoning ad-
vanced by the economists, but given the large financial and
policy resources being committed to indigenous innovation
in all its manifestations, it is fair to say that the advocates of
a strategic S&T policy to strengthen indigenous R&D clearly
have won out.
A second issue involved the selection of megaprojects
and the continued relevance of the thinking behind the
12-year plan and the liangdan yixing programs experience.
The appeal of centrally planned S&T development is not a
Figure 4. The Three Gorges
Dam, being built on the Yangtze
River at Yichang, China, is the
world’s largest hydroelectric
project. It symbolizes both
China’s developmental aspira-
tions and the many problems
associated with the country’s
development trajectory.
Although the power it will gen-
erate should reduce China’s
dependence on fossil fuels, it
carries a number of economic,
environmental, and national
security risks.
42 December 2006 Physics Today
uniquely Chinese phenomenon, but the Chinese way is dis-
tinctive in its quest for comprehensiveness and detail, as re-
flected in the use of the term guihua, or “plan,” in the MLP.
Guihua implies a strategic, comprehensive, and long-term de-
velopment plan. By contrast, the Chinese jihua, also trans-
lated as “plan,” suggests contents and procedures for an ac-
tion before its implementation.
Most Chinese planners would acknowledge that the
world has changed dramatically since the days of the liang-
dan yixing programs; still, the notion of centrally selected
R&D objectives and centrally mobilized resources to support
those objectives seems to have special appeal in Chinese po-
litical culture. In the abstract, the debate has been whether
strategic plans of this sort make for good science and creative
innovation in China.
At the pragmatic level, however, the debate is about the
efficacy of committing substantial funding to large national
projects. The discussion has been sparked in part by criti-
cisms about the effectiveness of such national programs as
the National High-Technology Research and Development
Program (the so-called 863 program) and the National Basic
Research Program (the 973 program). Since the majority of
national programs and approximately 15% of the govern-
ment’s R&D expenditures are controlled by MOST, the
doubts expressed about the effectiveness of national pro-
grams have inevitably been taken as criticism of the ministry
as well; detractors charge that MOST champions national
programs not just to meet national goals, but also as a way
to enhance its budget and overall importance.
In July 2004 a group of prominent US-based Chinese life
scientists criticized the 863 and 973 programs and, by impli-
cation, the inclusion of so many megaprojects in the MLP. The
scientists, who were attending a symposium in Beijing, com-
municated to Premier Wen their belief that the funding of the
biosciences in the two programs was biased and inefficient,
lacked transparency, and was too often subject to the prefer-
ences of MOST officials rather than scientists.
They ex-
pressed concern that the success of the MLP would be com-
promised if too much attention and resources were
concentrated on big national projects. A few months later, ad-
ditional criticism appeared in a well-publicized article in
China Voices II, a Chinese-language supplement to Nature.
US-based neuroscientists Yi Rao and Bai Lu and senior life
scientist Chen-lu Tsou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
argued for changing the ways that megaprojects are organ-
ized and funded, and suggested that MOST be dissolved, or
at least have its power over research funding reduced.
In the same issue of China Voices II, Mu-ming Poo, a US-
based scientist who also serves as director of the Institute of
Neuroscience of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shang-
hai, drew an analogy relating the difference between big sci-
ence and little science to the operation of a planned economy
as compared with a market economy.
Focusing on problems
with the 863 and 973 programs, Poo argued that the pursuit
of megaprojects diverts resources from programs supporting
bottom-up, investigator-driven projects, which often pro-
duce more original research. In his view, large national proj-
ects have channeled funds to mediocre laboratories, often on
the basis of personal connections and with little peer review.
Those grants, in Poo’s opinion, have had little impact on the
direction of research or the productivity of the participating
Criticisms such as those described above clearly have not
carried the day, given the important role of the megaprojects
in the MLP. Although most of the large engineering programs
will not be run principally by MOST, the research programs
in frontier technologies and the science megaprojects will be.
A cynical interpretation of the MLP might be that, in its R&D
foci, it represents only a repackaging of existing MOST pro-
grams and national programs administered by other agen-
cies. The frontier technology program, for instance, includes
the same project areas as the 863 program, except that “ad-
vanced manufacturing” replaces “automation.”
Governance and accountability
The significant expansion of government funding for re-
search and innovation promised by the MLP is raising new
concerns about the performance of the research system and
whether national resources are being used wisely. Although
China still is a long way from democratic accountability, the
recent criticisms of the research system and frequent reports
of fraud and other types of misconduct in the technical com-
munity are raising questions in the National People’s Con-
gress, in the Ministry of Finance, in policy circles, and in pub-
lic discussions about the public administration of science and
the management problems of government agencies. To its
credit, MOST has responded quickly to recent cases of mis-
conduct and has instituted a package of new evaluation and
budgeting procedures intended to monitor research more
closely and prevent and punish fraud and other forms of un-
ethical scientific behavior.
The effective implementation of the MLP will require
complex interministerial cooperation in the central govern-
ment and intergovernmental cooperation between the cen-
tral government and the provinces and cities, which are sup-
posed to work out their own local plan for S&T development.
To improve management at the central-government level, es-
pecially for the engineering megaprojects, MOST has pro-
posed online systems for tracking the involvement of techni-
cal experts so as to avoid conflicts of interest, for monitoring
the performance of researchers, and for facilitating funding
The ministry will seek to ensure its own continuing role
in science policy and national research coordination, but the
challenges of successfully implementing the MLP may en-
gender a series of new administrative arrangements. It will
be interesting to see if such a scenario comes to pass. In par-
ticular, members of the technical community have discussed
the need to create a new supraministerial office of S&T pol-
icy. The office would improve interministerial coordination
and provide science advice to government leaders who will
face many new technical and institutional issues that arise as
the plan is carried out. Quite conceivably, with the imple-
mentation of the MLP, pressures will grow for the creation of
an administrative mechanism of this sort.
A grand experiment
Given its breadth and depth, the MLP is likely to have a major
effect on Chinese S&T in the coming 15 years. At the very
least, if China reaches its spending goals for R&D, it will have
become a global scientific center. Of course, spending alone
does not guarantee scientific distinction and technological
prowess. The drafters of the MLP certainly recognize that
point and have sought to encourage ongoing institutional
and cultural change as a means to achieve the plan’s goals.
For many observers inside and outside China, the MLP
can be viewed as a grand experiment. It will be relevant to
debates that have gone on in many countries for some time
about the utility of state-directed programs of innovation
versus decentralized, market-responsive approaches. Most
students of innovation recognize a proper role for the state
in promoting new knowledge and techniques, but determin- December 2006 Physics Today 43
ing what is proper remains contentious and varies from coun-
try to country. Resolving the question requires mechanisms
for assessing and evaluating the costs and benefits of state ac-
tion. Market signals in China are beginning to help in those
tasks, as is the increasing commitment to formal research
evaluation. The growing concern expressed about govern-
ment accountability is a promising development, but the lack
of full, democratic accountability deprives China of an im-
portant source of information and feedback on the appropri-
ateness of government S&T policies.
Another interesting question for which the MLP will
provide insight is that of the proper balance between indige-
nous efforts at research and innovation on the one hand, and
involvement with global technology flows and knowledge
development on the other. Despite strong techno-nationalist
themes in the discourse about the plan, it is inconceivable that
Chinese S&T could have progressed to current levels with-
out the productive engagement it has had during the past 25
years with foreign universities, research centers, and corpo-
rations. Chinese leaders appear to sense that the terms of this
engagement may be changing. Nonetheless, they also seem
to recognize that the globalization of research and innovation
continues apace and that a country is unlikely to progress
without involvement in it. Indeed, China’s leaders have gone
to great lengths to remind their foreign counterparts that the
MLP is not designed to insulate China from international co-
operation and significant participation in the world’s emerg-
ing global knowledge system.
The implementation of the MLP also will help scholars
and policymakers better understand the role of S&T in na-
tional development. China has a vast peasant population
and, as of 2005, a per-capita GDP of only $1700; by those
measures it remains a developing country. But by any num-
ber of indicators of scientific activity, it is not. China ranks
fifth in international S&T publications, above France, Italy,
and Canada. It has a relatively comprehensive S&T system,
if not among the world’s most advanced, with indigenous
R&D in the life sciences, nanoscience, space technology, and
other internationally important fields. Its pool of about 1 mil-
lion scientists and engineers devoted to R&D is second only
to the US, and China is about to surpass the US in the con-
ferring of doctoral degrees in science and engineering. Such
scientific resources encouraged the initiation of the MLP. It
remains to be seen whether the plan can mobilize and or-
ganize China’s resources in such a way as to accelerate eco-
nomic and social development.
Notwithstanding the great promise of its S&T, China has
daunting problems to overcome. In addition to those dis-
cussed here, there is the aging of China’s population, which
will affect the long-term supply of scientists and engineers
and other professionals and will require the diversion of so-
cietal resources to support those who have become less pro-
ductive. 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.
1. See, for example, R. P. Suttmeier, X. Yao, A. Z. Tan, Standards
of Power? Technology, Institutions, and Politics in the Develop-
ment of China’s National Standards Strategy, National Bureau of
Asian Research, Seattle, WA (2006), available at
2. See, for example, H. Xin, Science 313, 1721 (2006).
3. Office of Naval Research, The Structure and Infrastructure of Chi-
nese Science and Technology, access no. ADA443315, Defense Tech-
nical Information Center, Fort Belvoir, VA (2006), available at
4. See the article in the People’s Daily online, http://english
5. D. Cyranoski, Nature 430, 495 (2004).
6. Y. Rao, B. Lu, C.-l. Tsou, Nature 432 (supplement China Voices II),
A12 (2004).
7. M.-m. Poo, Nature 432 (supplement China Voices II), A18 (2004).
8. H. Xin, G. Yidong, Science 311, 1548 (2006).
9. National Bureau of Statistics and Ministry of Science and Tech-
nology, China Statistical Yearbook on Science and Technology, China
Statistics Press, Beijing (various years); National Bureau of Statis-
tics, China Statistical Abstract 2006, China Statistics Press, Beijing
Key areas
Information technology industry and modern services
National defense
Population and health
Public securities
Urbanization and urban development
Water and mineral resources
Frontier technology
Advanced energy
Advanced manufacturing
Aerospace and aeronautics
New materials
Engineering megaprojects
Advanced numeric-controlled machinery and basic
manufacturing technology
Control and treatment of AIDS, hepatitis, and other
major diseases
Core electronic components, high-end generic chips,
and basic software
Drug innovation and development
Extra large scale integrated circuit manufacturing and
Genetically modified new-organism variety breeding
High-definition Earth observation systems
Large advanced nuclear reactors
Large aircraft
Large-scale oil and gas exploration
Manned aerospace and Moon exploration
New-generation broadband wireless mobile
Water pollution control and treatment
Science megaprojects
Development and reproductive biology
Protein science
Quantum research
Box 2. Areas and programs identified in
China’s 15-year science plan
... C hina's rising capability in science, technology and innovation (S&TI) to a certain extent has to do with "a grand experiment" that started 15 years ago (Cao et al., 2006). In early 2006, China's State Council, or the cabinet, released the National Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (S&T) (2006)(2007)(2008)(2009)(2010)(2011)(2012)(2013)(2014)(2015)(2016)(2017)(2018)(2019)(2020) (MLP). ...
... China has a long history of formulating FYPs for national economic and social development (since 1953) and FYPs usually include an S&T component. The MLP to 2020 was particularly inspired by the Long-term Plan for the Development of Science andTechnology (1956-1967), or the 12-year plan, the most celebrated of China's past S&T plans, which not only laid the foundation for modern science in China but also has been recognized as an important milestone in S&T planning (Cao et al., 2006). Corresponding to China's FYPs for economic and social development, the Ministry of Science and Technology leads the formulation of FYPs for S&T development, which are important vehicles for MLP's implementation. ...
Full-text available
China’s rising capability in science, technology and innovation to a certain extent has to do with “a grand experiment” that started 15 years ago when the Chinese government released the National Medium and Long-Term Plan for the Development of Science and Technology (2006–2020) (MLP). MLP launched the indigenous innovation strategy and set goals to turn China into an innovation-oriented country. The junction when the old MLP phased out and a new MLP (2021–2035) will soon be introduced holds greater historical and practical significance for the Chinese and international scientific communities to make sense of planning for science. This paper reviews the progress achieved in implementing the MLP, analyzes the daunting challenges facing China to become an innovation-oriented nation, discusses the implications of planning science for the Chinese and international scientific communities, and speculates on what might be included in the new MLP.
... China's Fourteenth Five-Year Plan (Article VII, Section 3) issued by the Central Committee in 2020 supports international collaboration in science and technology (S&T). Specifics about activities are determined by companies, ministries, laboratories, hospitals, and universities (Cao et al., 2006;Serger & Breidne, 2007). China's domestic research and development spending has increased dramatically, as reported by the OECD, see Table 1 (2020). ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 global pandemic starting in January 2020 disrupted international collaborations in scholarly exchange, reducing mobility and connections across the globe. An examination of Web of Science-indexed publications from China, the European Union-28 and the United States of America shows a drop in publications numbers coming from the EU-28 and the United States in 2021. Importantly, cooperation between China and the United States drops without a corresponding drop between China and the EU-28. Moreover, the drop in China-USA cooperation can be seen beginning in 2019, before the pandemic, at a time when political tensions around science, technology, and innovation arose, with the United States claiming that China was violating intellectual property norms. The patterns suggest that political tensions, more than the pandemic, influenced the drop in China-USA cooperation.
... China's Fourteenth Five-Year Plan (Article VII, Section 3) issued by the Central Committee in 2020 supports international collaboration in science and technology (S&T). Specifics about activities are determined by companies, ministries, laboratories, hospitals, and universities (Cao et al., 2006;Serger & Breidne, 2007). China's domestic research and development spending has increased dramatically, as reported by the OECD, see Table 1 (2020). ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 global pandemic starting in January 2020 disrupted international collaborations in scholarly exchange, reducing mobility and connections across the globe. An examination of Web of Science-indexed publications from China, the European Union (28) and the United States of America shows a drop in publications numbers coming from the EU-28 and the United States in 2021. Importantly, cooperation between China and the United States drops without a corresponding drop between China and the EU-28. Moreover, the drop in China-USA cooperation can be seen beginning in 2019, before the pandemic, at a time when political tensions around science, technology, and innovation arose—with the United States claiming that China was violating intellectual property norms. The patterns suggest that political tensions, more than the pandemic, influenced the drop in China-USA cooperation.
... The value of the patent is measured at the firm level and reveals the extent to which policy incentives can stimulate patent value. Since the S&T Outline is the most strategic innovation policy in China (Cao et al., 2006), we set 2006 as the baseline for the S&T Outline to start exerting its effects. ...
Full-text available
This study aims to contribute to the empirical literature that evaluates the impact of the Science & Technology (S&T) Outline, a Chinese innovation policy implemented in 2006, measured by the scale of patent value. We first create a comprehensive patent valuation model (CPVM), derived from the extended patent renewal model and a variety of feature indices, to measure a firm’s patent value. From a database with over 700,000 Chinese patents from 1985 to 2013, we find that the patent value increases after the release of the S&T Outline, and the scale of patent value after 2006 is about 26.52 times more than that before 2006. Further, we use a quasi-difference in differences (DID) model to estimate the growth effect caused by the innovation policy. The results indicate that the S&T Outline had a significant effect on the promotion of patent value, in industries with high patent intensity. Considering the lag effect of the S&T Outline, we construct innovation correlation networks to visualise and compare its promotion effect. We find that regional networks have a gathering tendency after policy implementation, while industrial networks have a decentralising tendency.
... According to the MLP, China will invest 2.5% of its increasing gross domestic product in R&D by 2020, up from 1.34% in 2005; raise the contributions to economic growth from technological advance to more than 60%; and limit its dependence on imported technology to no more than 30%. The plan also calls for China to become one of the top five countries in the world in the number of invention patents granted to Chinese citizens, and for Chinese-authored scientific papers to become among the world's most cited [47]. As expected that the MLP would have an impact on the trajectory of Chinese development, China's growth started after the creation of this plan. ...
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There is an increasing concern about fossil energy and products derived from it. The plastic industry depends on oil, and produced plastics cannot degrade naturally. An alternative to plastics from oil is the use of bioplastics, which can be degradable. The bibliometric study of the publications related to bioplastics carried out in this paper shows that research on this topic is growing both in developed (USA, European Union, and Canada) and in developing countries (China, India, Thailand, and Malaysia), mostly following the implementation of bioeconomy standards and labels by their governments. The main authors and the collaborations they have worldwide are also presented here. The research carried out in this paper is not only devoted to technological aspects but also to economic aspects and inhabitant ratios. Trends in publications, by country and authors, are analyzed. Finally, this paper also studies the countries governmental policies and how they impact the bioplastic field.
This article brings the role of talent migration to the discussion of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) mainly focusing on academic talents. We explore the foundation for BRI's talent development as a long-term and gradual process building on policies dating back to China's opening in 1978. China's opening saw an increased number of individuals who could improve their skills, knowledge, and network from China globally or inside China from elsewhere on the globe. These global experiences have resulted in the Chinese government, companies, and institutions' necessity to compete for talent or human resources on a global “market”. We interpret the call for establishing people-to-people connections within the BRI as an intensification of China's existing talent strategy. However, at a micro-level, we continue to find that international talents and returned migrants perceive themselves as outsiders which hinders China's talent attraction policies and results in a circular movement of academic talents to and from China
This chapter expounds on the reasons for the historical evolution of the Medium and Long-Term Science and Technology Program and its philosophy, from politicization to utilitarianism, and then to humanization. Science and technology planning has a profound impact on contemporary Chinese academy. The Large Aircraft Project in Medium and Long-Term Science and Technology Program shows the complex factors and interest game in the process of formulating and implementing China's science and technology planning.
In recent years, it is not only an innovator (institution), who is important for technology innovation, but increasingly important have become the micro and macro environment, since technological innovation requires cooperation, supportive legal, political, managerial, economic, social or environmental factors. As analogies in Japan, the USA, India or China, also the European Community, has to respond adequately to this trend through supportive legislation, management, infrastructure and cooperation. This article has the key purpose to outline selected issues and challenges of technological innovation and management in the world, as input into the comprehensive analysis of technology patenting in the EU countries since 1980. As a basic research methodology we chose patent research and database analyses of the EPO and WIPO databases. We examined the granted patents in comparison with several additional indicators, such as, a number of inhabitants, national GDP, VC investment, or patent publications by technology. In this limited patent analysis, we tried to distinguish between developing and developed countries of the EU. The result of this research shows that there are significant differences between developed and developing countries of the EU, not only in terms of technological innovation and patent intensity, or commercialisation of innovation, but also related to the focus and management of the technology innovation.
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The EU is caught up in a debate over whether to increase its autonomy with regard to the wider world. International developments and crises of recent years have raised the question of whether Europeans should be more capable of managing the risks stemming from their exposure to global trade and possible over-reliance on allies for their security. This report analyses how the pursuit of strategic autonomy transforms EU policies in the field of security, diplomacy, trade, and technology. The report makes recommendations on how the EU can advance strategic autonomy, while striking a balance between protectionist tendencies and the need to stay open to international engagement and cooperation. Instead of focusing on the divisive question of strategic autonomy from others, member states should pay attention to more constructive approaches and concrete actions to strengthen strategic autonomy. In each of the policy fields, the right mix of protection of European assets, provision of the economic and political basis, and the projection of European interests and values abroad will be vital.
Full-text available
BEIJING-- For a few lucky research fields, a new government road map for science is like winning the lottery. (Read more.)
University in New York. His teaching and research focuses on ICT policy and regulation, new technology development and applications, and industry restructure and global competition. He can be reached at <>.
Can an ambitious plan to protect unique marine habitats in the open ocean turn the tide of destruction? Henry Nicholls plunges in.
SCIENTIFIC WORKFORCEChinese universities bask in the glow of top-gun scientists hired on part-time deals to share their wisdom. Critics say the money could be spent more wisely. ([Read more][1].) [1]:
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Y. Rao, B. Lu, C.-l. Tsou, Nature 432 (supplement China Voices II), A12 (2004).
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H. Xin, G. Yidong, Science 311, 1548 (2006).
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M.-m. Poo, Nature 432 (supplement China Voices II), A18 (2004).