By International Development Research Centre
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Extra info for A Decade of Reform: Science & Technology Policy in China
Some final observations We began this report with comments covering the main impressions that we gained during our visit to China in November. As we finish it, we wish to add a few further observations, more oriented to our impressions of useful future directions for China to consider pursuing in the light of experience in other parts of the world. We share the view that S&T is the driving force behind contemporary economic development and that S&T has great potential to contribute equally to social development, provided that its development and application are carefully managed.
Many of China‘s SOEs and much of the S&T system are under the local governments. Large and nationally important enterprises and research institutes, however, are centrally controlled. Nevertheless, these units are also subject to local influence and coordination. In the reform era, the wealth and power of many local governments relative to the centre have increased, although the wealth and power among local governments have become considerably more unequal. With the funding changes that have reduced the vertical income of national institutes and institutions of higher education and encouraged the development of horizontal revenue flows, the possibility of local governments increasing their influence with national S&T units has increased.
Followed as it was by the critically important Decision on Issues Concerning the Establishment of a Socialist Market Economy Structure, made at the Third Plenary Session of the 14th Party Conference in November 1993, the stage was set for important new initiatives in S&T and the economy as China began to prepare for the Ninth Five-Year Plan and the countdown to 2000. Another National S&T Conference in 1995 and the May 1995 Decision on Accelerating Scientific and Technological Progress thus can be seen as occurring at the convergence of four factors: – The experience of more than a decade of successes and failures with S&T reforms and with the other S&T programs alluded to above; – Important streams of new reform thinking based on the idea of a socialist market economy, thinking that in turn is influenced by the reality that China‘s rapid economic growth has been driven more by economic activities outside the state sector than by those within it; – The overall improvement of China‘s technological level during the reform period as a result of the very large expenditures on ―technological renovation‖ (jishu gaizao) over the past 15 years (although some of this technology has come from China, a great deal of it has come from massive procurements of foreign technology; the introduction of advanced foreign technology continues with the surge of foreign investment — often in high-technology fields — that occurred in the early 1990s); and – The impending competitive challenges China will face with its eventual admission into the WTO, and the fact that its domestic industries will face even more competition than they have thus far under the open-door policy of the past 15 years (to meet the challenges that WTO membership will bring, China is seeking to reorganize its industrial structure to ensure that it has firms [―pillar industries‖ or ―national champions‖] that have the size, technology, and managerial skill needed to compete in the global economy).