Science and Technology Policy Reforms in China: A Critical Assessment
The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies
The last decade has been a period of stock-taking and new adventures for Chinese policies regarding science and technology. After the new leadership had established itself in the late 1970s, and it looked back on the achievements and the mistakes of previous years, there was a strong feeling of frustration with the fact that levels of technology in China continued to lag behind advanced countries. To inject vitality into what seemed to be a dormant, but potentially powerful, science and
... science and technology (S&T) system required reforms which, in many respects, were more radical than anything of the past. We have witnessed a process where the results of research appeared for sale on a market, where scientists became engaged as ))moonlightingcc consultants, and where private research units have become fashionable. At the same time, however, these reforms have provided fascinating insights into the structural barriers which exist for technological innovation in modern Chinese society. In many respects, the exposure of such barriers provides crucial clues to the formulation of better S&T policies in China. With this paper we hope to contribute to a critical assessment of the reforms. We are concerned with the political support of the S&T policy reforms. The S&T system established after 1949 on the basis of a Soviet model appears to have recovered quickly after the alledgedly shattering onslaughts of ideological anti-intellectualism during the Cultural Revolution. The scientists had barely drawn a sigh of relief before new, ))marketorientedc forces were let loose on them in the 1980s. The final years of the decade have brought about a stalemate between the push for commercialization and the resistence to change. Who were the main proponents of the noldtr system, and who were politically motivated to develop the new approaches? We shall provide a brief analysis of competing models in the politics of science and technology management which we hope will clarify these questions. Our main concern is, however, an attempt to gauge the actual impact of the reforms. We shall look at three areas where commercialization was Erik Baark and Liu Suying supposed to generate dynamism. First, the breaking the ))iron rice bowl(( of research funding was intended to achieve a more efficient and productive allocation of money. Secondly, people were to be relieved of the shackles of centrally managed assignment to permanent posts. With opportunities to move into new jobs scientists were expected to make full use of their talents. Thirdly, technology-based entrepreneurship was promoted as a new means of diffusion. The emergence of a large number of collectively owned or private high technology ventures in the vicinity of institutions of higher education and research raised many controversial issues of how far commercialization should go.