Co-operation enhanced to higher level
China is expanding bilateral and multilateral scientific programmes over the next two years, sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology said.
Its main targets include joining international basic research programmes, high-tech projects, space technology and high-energy physics studies.
The country will also nurture some powerful domestic companies, universities and research institutions as backbone international co-operation centres, according to the ministry.
China's Spark Programme - a scientific plan initiated in 1986 to boost agriculture and rural economy through advanced technology - will seek international co-operation, including assisting other developing countries.
In its latest Five-Year Scientific Plan (2001-05), the ministry for the first time included international scientific co-operation as an important part.
Sources from the ministry's Department of International Co-operation said earlier this year that China will kick off several international scientific programmes, including:
Galilei Project, the largest scientific programme between China and the European Union (EU) since EU and China established official relations in 1975. The two sides will collaborate in satellite navigation and industrial manufacturing technology.
Chinese scientists have participated in the global efforts to decode human gene sequence, the Human Genome Project.
An air-to-ground observation programme, initiated by Chinese and American scientists. It should provide a scientific basis for urban planning and disaster forecasts.
The new scientific co-operative plans are built upon China's successful co-operation with other countries over the past two decades, according to the ministry.
China began large-scale bilateral and multilateral co-operation with other countries in 1978 when the country implemented its opening-up policies.
Today, the country has scientific links with 152 countries or regions, and has signed official science and technology agreements with 96 countries.
Most programmes in the past offered chances for Chinese scientists to go abroad and to see how their counterparts worked, or to attend science conferences.
Now, channels for co-operation have been widened to include the joint development of new technology, the design of new products and the establishment of institutes or laboratories, sources from the ministry's Department of International Co-operation said.
China and the EU, for example, have carried out 300 joint projects in biology, energy, information technology and environmental science since the two set up science links in 1981, the ministry's incomplete statistics indicate.
The year 1998 marked a milestone in higher-level science co-operation between China and the EU, when they signed an agreement to push collaboration in basic research and high-tech programmes.
In accordance with the agreement, the EU has opened the Fifth Framework Programme - a high-level scientific plan - to Chinese scientists.
To date, several research projects proposed by Chinese scientists have been included in the EU's Fifth Framework Programme.
China has also begun large-scale scientific collaboration projects with France, covering such areas as water conservation, water disaster prevention, disease control, treatments for hepatitis and leukaemia.
These new programmes differ from the previous single institute-to-institute collaborations between China and France in that they will be conducted between several top laboratories from the two countries, according to the ministry.
Another big part of China's international scientific co-operation is collaboration between China and the United States.
Sino-US collaboration started in January 1979 under the Science and Technology Co-operation Agreement, signed by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and former US President Jimmy Carter. The two sides have successfully collaborated in basic science research over the past 20 years, covering the atmosphere, oceans, health, medicine and agriculture.
A typical example is seismology studies. The two countries set up a China Digital Seismology Network in 1983.
Since the network went into operation in 1987, it has supplemented studies into earthquakes in Chinese mainland.
Now China and the United States have started a project to improve Beijing's air quality and environment for the 2008 Olympic Games.
Supported by the US Department of Energy, eight clean energy programmes will be implemented to promote environmentally friendly energy development efforts for the 2008 Games and develop future sustainable energy sources in the capital.