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Premier calls to beef up basic research|
The wellspring of economic and social development lies in science and technology and that is why they should be better integrated, Premier Wen Jiabao has told a leading US science magazine.
He also said he would like to see increased spending on basic research in China and a reduction of energy consumption by 4 percent annually.
In a two-hour, wide-ranging interview with Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, Wen also vowed to improve food safety and leverage science to help the poor.
The interview is published today in the journal, which also carries an editorial written by Wen and a news article on science and technology in China.
"In recent years, we have continuously increased the level of support" for basic research, Wen told Alberts, describing research on fundamental science as "the wellspring and driving force" of innovation.
"But I think (China's spending on basic research) is still insufficient."
Five percent of the nation's total spending on science goes toward basic research, according to Alberts, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, who cited the Ministry of Science and Technology.
In comparison, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) has reported that 17.5 percent of the United States' total spending on science was on basic research in 2007.
Despite that, Chinese scientists and engineers have made remarkable progress in recent years, based on contributions to scholarly journals and the number of patents filed or obtained.
Alberts said after returning to Washington that he was extremely impressed by the high caliber of students he met at Tsinghua and Peking universities.
Alberts, who was visiting Beijing to deliver lectures at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Tsinghua University, joined Science Asia News Editor Richard Stone for the rare personal meeting with Wen and Chen Zhu, the minister of health.
Remarks by Wen - a geologist - "clearly reveal his passion for both science and technology, as well as his recognition of their central importance to society," Alberts said.
For example, when asked about the recent tainted-milk crisis in China, Wen said that both the producers and the government must accept responsibility for preventing food from being tainted in the future.
"We feel great sorrow about this milk incident," Wen said. "I once again solemnly emphasize that it is absolutely impermissible to sacrifice people's lives and health in exchange for temporary economic development."
All food must meet international standards, and in particular, exported food must meet the standards of importing countries, Wen said. The Ministry of Health has now been assigned responsibility for food safety in China, he added.
Wen also acknowledged China's challenges in moving toward more environmentally friendly practices, and promised that the country would continue to make improvements.
"We have established a goal, that is in future development, our GDP growth every year must be accompanied by a 4 percent decrease in energy consumption," he said, "and a 2 percent reduction in (chemical oxygen demand) and sulfur dioxide emissions every year."
Noting that China has been an industrial nation for only a few decades, he nonetheless added that "we will now begin to shoulder our due responsibilities" for protecting the environment.
China's coal production currently exceeds 2.5 billion tons per year and "this kind of huge consumption of energy, especially non-renewable fossil fuel, will not be sustainable", Wen said.
Alberts' interview with Wen also covered China's "Scientific Outlook on Development". Wen explained that there are several fundamental principles at the heart of China's science-based efforts to improve people's lives and the country's economy.
Specifically, he said that any plan for China's progress should put people first by seeking to increase material as well as cultural prosperity. In addition, Wen advocated "comprehensive development", which he described as including the integration of economic and political reform.
He further said that China will seek to resolve disparities between rich and poor, and balance development in the agriculture, industry and service sectors of the economy.
Finally, he said that China will work toward sustainable development that addresses the inherent challenge of limited resources to support a population of 1.3 billion.