CHINA> Regional
Hi-tech zones weathering global crisis
By Chen Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-16 07:57

The country's high-tech economic zones have shown strong resilience to the global slowdown, a top government official said yesterday.

Speaking at a conference to mark the 50th anniversary of the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) - the country's largest NGO for scientists and engineers - Minister of Science and Technology Wan Gang said: "China's hi-tech zones have been the least affected by the economic meltdown."

Economic indexes rose steadily in 54 hi-tech industry development zones over the first three quarters of the year, with some achieving more than 20 percent growth, he said.

"Some zones in central and western China, and in the Pearl River Delta even reported growth of more than 30 percent," he said.

"They have been a pillar for regional economic development," Wang said.

The Torch Plan, initiated in 1998 by the ministry to provide monetary and policy support for key research programs, has played an important role in upgrading traditional industries and aiding the surging Internet industry in the past decades, he said.

"GDP per capita in the zones is 14 times last year's national average," he said.

As part of the Torch Plan, the government provided funds for small firms in 31 regions. By the end of last year, more than 40,000 companies had benefited from the scheme, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

President Hu Jintao said at the conference that more effort should be made to turn China into an "innovation-oriented country".

Science and technology are key factors in determining the country's strength, he said.

The development of China and the Communist Party of China needs strong scientific and technological support, he said. Hu urged scientists across the country to learn from innovative spirit of their predecessors and colleagues who pioneered the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs, satellites and manned space programs.

He also called on CAST to continue to make science and technology more appealing to the public, to encourage scientific innovation, and to inspire respect from scientists around the world.