In a country of 1.2 billion people, who make up 23 percent of the world's population, on only 7 percent of the earth's cultivable land, Chinese science and technology has the dual missions of [solving a number of major strategic problem including adequate levels of food, shelter, transportation, education, and health care,] and in improving the country's [scientific and technological infrastructure] (Science, Nov. 1995, p. 1154). Both missions intersect with those of higher education, although China's scientific establishment is far more encompassing than higher education. It comprises 23,613 institutions, of which 7,805 are research institutions, 12,499 industrial enterprises, and 3,309 research institutes within higher education. About 2.6 million persons are employed in these institutions, of whom 1.5 million are scientists and engineers. Research and development (R & D) spending accounted for about 0.5 percent of the GNP in 1994 (China Statistical Yearbook 1995, Table 18.40, p. 619). About 7 percent of R&D was spent on basic research, 30 on applied research, and the rest on development (Science, Nov. 1995, p. 1135).
The leading research institution is the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), which was established in 1949 and has 123 research institutes under its jurisdiction. Since 1978, the CAS has also undergone reform to make its research institutes more open to university professors, increased mobility into and from the institutes, strengthened international collaboration, introduced a system of peer review, and provided more opportunities to a younger generation of scientists. It has established 100 open laboratories and has set aside funds to improve collaboration with universities. It has also established relations with more than 3,000 enterprises to facilitate technology transfer through contract research. About 30 percent of its activities are devoted to basic research, another 30 percent to population, resources, and the environment, and the remaining 40 percent to technology development. About half of its budget is obtained through competition from government and industrial projects. The CAS's achievement is recorded in Annex 8.
In the effort to advance science and technology, the Government created state key laboratories in 1984 to break into the forefront of global science and established the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) the following year to coordinate, review, and evaluation research efforts. These key laboratories received an initial grant of $1 million or more to modernize their facilities and are eligible for additional funding. Although it was not a large amount by international comparison, it was large relative to China's average research grant of $10,000 over a three-year period. Ten years into the program, the key laboratories proliferated into 155 labs, of which only 11 are world-class and received top rating by the NSFC. The inability to weed out weak labs even though they have been identified has resulted in spreading the research funds more and more thinly, a consequence similar to that of the proliferation of higher education institutions (Science, Nov. 1995, pp. 1137–1139).