Updated guidelines for science and technology policy published by China's new Ministry of Science and Technology will direct scientific research in universities and research institutes over the next few years.
Guidelines in the white paper on science and technology aim substantially to increase public awareness and understanding of government plans for science and technology development, Xu Guanhua, vice-minister of science and technology, said.
Major scientific and technological projects in China's ninth five-year plan period (1996-2000) and plans to 2010 were outlined in the policy document.
Priorities are agriculture, industry, national defence, theoretical research and high technology and the resulting social benefits and services.
Scientific departments across the country are to focus on increasing agricultural production through advanced technology, enhancing technology in fields such as transport, telecommunications, energy, raw materials and water conservation, and fostering "pillar industries" including machinery, electronics, petrochemicals and automobile manufacturing.
Agro-scientists have been told to work on technology support for major farm products, increasing farmers' incomes and improving the environment.
Scientists must also concentrate efforts on developing high-speed passenger trains and other transport equipment, together with computerised management systems to ease railway bottlenecks.
Zhu Lilan, China's recently appointed minister of science and technology, said the world is embracing a new scientific era based on microelectronics and other new technology. She called on scientists to reinforce China's technology to face up to global challenges.
Vice-minister Xu said seven policy guideline papers had been published since 1986 and the plan is to maintain the pace by publishing up-to-date science and technology policy guidelines every year to increase public understanding of the country's scientific development.
The ministry said that progress in scientific development since the start of the ninth five-year plan in 1996 includes steps taken by provincial governments to revitalise themselves through the development and application of science and technology. Computer-based design, production and management methods have also entered use in all major industrial sectors.