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Ignoring science cripples development
By Cui Ning (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-23 00:25

For several years, central government has sought to drive home the necessity of  "revitalizing the nation through science and education'' and emphasize the key role they play in terms of advanced productivity.

The two theories, part of a national strategy, have stimulated scientific development in the better developed eastern areas in the last few years. But they have had virtually nil impact on the relatively poor western region, say sources from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

 A survey of China's 2,800 counties from late last year to the first half of 2004 researched scientific and technological development in the two areas.

It revealed financial allocation to scientific development in counties or county-level areas in the east was 7.1 billion yuan (US$855 million) last year. While that in western areas was a mere 1.2 billion yuan (US$144 million).

Some 170 of the 2,800 counties, located in Qinghai, Gansu and Heilongjiang provinces and the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, make no financial provision for scientific development at all.

Almost 400 counties do not have scientific departments, while some of those who do appear to be staffed by geriatrics.Science and Technology Ministry sources said local retired officials  "stationed'' in these scientific departments, sit out the day chatting or drinking tea and doing practically nothing relevant to scientific development.

Some counties in western areas still rely on old traditional production methods with technological development remaining stagnant over the past decade, and new technology conspicuously absent, according to the ministry.

More than 80 per cent of the country's population live in counties or county-level areas. It is vital to revitalize scientific development in those areas to better people's living standards, sources from the ministry's Department for Planning and Development said.

Lower technological levels in those areas have badly hindered local economic development, said the ministry's spokesman Shang Yong.

The ratio of output by the farm produce processing industry to agricultural production is 0.4:1 in China. In the United States it stands at 2.7:1 and in Britain 4.3:1, said Shang.

 "If this ratio can be raised to 2:1 in China, the incomes of farmers can increase five fold,'' said Shang.

The ministry is determined to help counties or county-level regions across the country significantly upgrade technology.

At a national conference of county-level scientific development to be held next Thursday, the ministry will elaborate proposed measures to regional scientific officials.

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