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SCIO briefing on making China a country of innovators and supporting the fostering of a new development paradigm

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The State Council Information Office held a press conference in Beijing on Feb. 26 to brief the media on issues around making China a country of innovators and supporting the fostering of a new development paradigm.

China.org.cnUpdated: March 3, 2021

National Business Daily:

How basic research can be strengthened to improve our original innovative ability remains an issue of great public concern. The Fifth Plenary Session of the Central Committee proposed formulating a 10-Year Action Plan for basic research, so my question is, what major progress has China made in this regard? And what specific measures will be taken next?

Wang Zhigang:

I'd like to hand your questions to Mr. Ye Yujiang.

Ye Yujiang:

Thank you for your questions. Basic research is the main resource in scientific technology, and a central gear for all technical issues. A country's foundation and stamina of technological innovation is determined by its level of basic research, which is also a prerequisite for China to achieve self-reliance in scientific technology. After years of efforts, and particularly since the 18th National Congress of the CPC in 2012, our basic research has achieved remarkable progress. On the whole, we believe that we have entered a new stage from quantitative accumulation to qualitative leap, from point breakthroughs to systematic capability improvement. To summarize briefly on the following four points: First, the development of the discipline demonstrates a good momentum and a number of major original results have been achieved. They include: China's high-quality international papers have reached second place globally for several consecutive years; the number of citations of SCI papers in 12 disciplines also now ranks second in the world, and our number of highly cited scientists has been second in the world for two consecutive years. We have also achieved major results with international influence in the fields of material sciences, quantum science, nanoscience, and life sciences. Second, we have significantly increased investment in basic research, which I explained earlier, so I won't repeat myself. Third, the policies and systems which support basic R&D have been continuously improved. We have formulated and issued documents to support our basic research work, such as Several Opinions of the State Council on Fully Strengthening Basic Scientific Research, Strengthening Basic Research Work Plan 'From zero to one', and Several Key Measures to Deepen Basic Research in the New Situation. Fourth, important progress has been made in the construction of scientific research bases. Currently, there are more than 500 national key laboratories, while 13 national applied mathematics centers have been built. With regard to the basic conditions of scientific research, we are building national scientific database centers, and resource management libraries for biological species and laboratory materials, as well as national research stations for observing wildlife, and we have increasingly consolidated our basic conditions for scientific research.

Next, we will further our basic research guided by the 14th Five-Year Plan from the following two aspects: First, we will double our efforts aiming at the cutting-edge of world science. As a major country, the Chinese nation should contribute to global scientific development and the progress of human civilization. Second, we will stress the concept that application is the key to basic research. Currently, we are faced by many bottleneck technical challenges, the root of which is that our basic theoretical research still lags behind. Therefore, in the first year of the 14th Five-Year Plan, we will pay more attention to solving scientific problems in our production practices and guide more scientists in conducting aim-oriented basic applied research, so as to make breakthroughs in national development and security.

The other important step to strengthening basic research is to focus on scientific issues when conducting basic research. Asking scientific questions is the fundamental prerequisite for solving problems scientifically as scientific research always starts with problems. If we fail to raise truly meaningful scientific questions, there will be no theoretical or methodological innovations, let alone major scientific achievements. Therefore, we will encourage scientists to begin with the truly scientific questions and pursue original topics by proposing new theories, exploring new fields and blazing new trails when consolidating basic research. We will formulate the Decade Action Plan for Basic Research (2021-2030) in accordance with the requirements of the central government. This plan will formulate a systematic deployment and arrangement for the development of basic research in China over the coming 10 years. Here, I will briefly introduce the preliminary considerations as well as how to strengthen basic research going forward.

First, we will further optimize the structure of both academic disciplines and R&D efforts. We will support the development of emerging disciplines, unpopular disciplines, and weaker disciplines, and especially promote the integration of disciplines as well as interdisciplinary research. A number of research centers for basic disciplines in cutting-edge fields will also be built.

Second, we will formulate and implement strategic scientific plans and projects, advance application-oriented basic research, and improve the supply system of basic generic technologies. 

Third, we will accelerate the development of national laboratories, reorganize the structure of national key laboratories, and establish systematic strategic sci-tech strength.

Fourth, we will reform and improve the systems and mechanisms for basic research and further increase input in basic research. In particular, we will establish an evaluation system that centers on academic contribution and innovation value in a bid to support research personnel to make innovation breakthroughs. Thank you.

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