Ever since President Richard Nixon’s official China visit in 1972, which opened a new era for Sino-US ties, scientific and technological cooperation, as well as the economic and trade cooperation, have become the most important backbone for Sino-US relations.
Scientific and technological cooperation has always been one of the key fields at bilateral summits. On January 31, 1979, Deng Xiaoping signed the Agreement between the US and the Chinese Governments on Cooperation in Science and Technology with President Jimmy Carter during his official visit to the US, launching a very important and promising field for further contacts between the two countries. In July of 1997, Chinese President Jiang Zemin made an official visit to the US, during which the two countries agreed to cooperate in a space-based program for studying the Earth. At the same time, the Energy and Environment Cooperation Initiative between the two countries was signed; In June of 1998, President Bill Clinton visited China, and the two countries reached an agreement on cooperation concerning peaceful uses of nuclear technologies and signed a letter of intent on cooperation concerning urban air quality monitoring network.
The Agreement between the US and the Chinese Governments on Cooperation in Science and Technology gives a broad overview of the scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries, and it is renewed every five years. So far, the period of validity for this convention has been extended to April 30, 2006. Based on this convention, the two governments have signed 34 cooperation protocols or memorandums step by step, covering more than 30 fields, including high energy physics, space study, environmental protection, nuclear safety and energy efficiency. This number stands top in terms of the number of cooperation China has signed with other developed countries across the world.
To plan and coordinate intergovernmental scientific and technological cooperation, the two countries set up the China-US Joint Commission on Scientific and Technological Cooperation. In the past 20 years or more, the commission has held nine conferences, providing a good dialog channel and negotiation mechanism for the two countries to carry out cooperation in areas of common interest, such as sanitation and health, energy, environment, fundamental research, and industrial technology.
Leaders’ support from both sides and the smooth cooperation among governments of the two countries offered very favorable conditions for extensive scientific cooperation. In the past 10 years, the cooperation between Chinese Academy of Sciences and US science and research institutes or universities has reached a substantial stage. The Physics Institute of Chinese Academy of Sciences set up a quantum physics research lab with the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Institute of Computing Technology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Texas State Agriculture University established a united laboratory on modern communication technology; and the publication work for the English-version Chinese Plants, which is chaired by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Missouri Botanical Garden, and co-edited by many botanists from many counties or institutes, is underway.
Prominent achievements have been made in terms of large-scale and comprehensive cooperation between China and US. Officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology indicated that, so far, the two countries have carried out several thousand projects regarding Sino-US scientific and technological cooperation, to which tens of thousand of scientists have given their invaluable contributions. The great achievements realized via Sino-US scientific and technological cooperation cover fundamental research, high technology, civil technology, among which, some of such achievements are leading the world, such as the remote satellite ground station by Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing electron-positron collision project, China digital earthquake network, the discovery of a hitherto unknown spiral-shaped galaxy, substitute technological research for home-use fluorine refrigerators and the production of super energy-saving refrigerators without fluorine, the framework for nuclear safety supervision management regulation and its management methods, a trial factory for electricity generation via circulation of gas, etc.
Many American-Chinese Nobel Prize winners such as Tsung-Dao Lee, Chen Ning Yang, Samuel C.C.Ting often hold international academic-exchange seminars and lead research cooperation between the two countries, making great contributions to China’ improvement in her research capacity. As a superpower with the most advanced science and technology, the United Sates has many advantages in many areas. From 1976 to 1999, among 122 Nobel Prize Winners, Americans gained 95. The statistics shows that the expenditure on scientific research and development in the US amounts to US$240 billion, accounting for half of the total scientific research and development expenditure for the seven most developed Western countries.
Through the equal exchange with the United States, China has learned and drawn the world’s advanced scientific theory and management methods, become well informed about the latest scientific and technological level information and development potential, learned advanced expertise or theories, research methods and technologies, and trained a large batch of high-level talents in science and technology.
Take the Chinese Academy of Sciences, for instance: in the past 20 years, about 10,000 technicians or researchers went to America for study or research, taking up almost one fourth of the total number of people sent by the academy for overseas study or research. Most of the leaders or backbone personnel of the academy and of its attached branches all have experience in studying or working in the US before, such as Bai Chunli, Hong Guofan, Ma Zhiming and some other highly reputed scientists.
Officials from the Ministry of Science and Technology said that Sino-US science and technology cooperation is a two-sided, reciprocal and win-win process, with both sides benefiting from each other at the same time. Through the exchange and communication between two sides, a deep understanding in science and technology has been reached within scientific circles on both sides and a broad and comprehensive cooperation foundation has been shaped. Thanks to such exchanges and cooperation, the two countries have shared many important scientific data as well.
(china.org.cn, March 4, 2002)