Chinese push social science

May 1, 1998

SPENDING on social science research in China has doubled in the past five years, but academics are still calling for more money.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences last year received 177 million yuan (Pounds 12.7 million) with which it has installed computers at its institute, purchased additional books and materials, repaired facilities and, very importantly, improved housing for research staff.

Cash problems have hindered the academy's work since its inception in 1977, limiting the scope of research and preventing scholars from collaborating and visiting overseas institutions.

An academy spokesman said, probably with more hope than conviction, that the increased funding indicates the country is beginning to pay greater attention to the academic achievements and social contributions of scholars in the liberal arts and social sciences.

Scholars and teachers were held in high esteem for about 5,000 years until the beginning of Chairman Mao's "cultural revolution". Since then salaries and status have declined sharply.

The emphasis of developments in higher education since the late 1970s has been in the natural sciences and technology related to the country's industrial and economic performance, which continues to receive the lion's share of government funding.

However, the 3,000-member institute continues to face a funding shortfall despite attempts to overcome shortages by operating companies, attracting foreign subsidies and reforming its system of distributing funds.

The academy leads the nation in terms of liberal arts and social science research, and is quick to point out that academy scholars were the first to formulate concepts for China's socialist market economy.

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