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  • China to tackle regional imbalance in science spending

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[BEIJING] The Chinese central government will allocate 100 million yuan (US$12.1 million) each year for the next few years to help drive scientific development in deprived counties and county-level areas, according to state councillor Chen Zhili.

The state councillor — a position similar, in China, to deputy prime minister — made the remark last Thursday (28 October) at a national conference for county-level scientific development held in Beijing.

Local science authorities will use the extra funds to train farmers with relevant science-based approaches and provide them with new technology. The money will initially be spent at 100 trial sites located mainly in poor western areas of China, said Chen.

The move follows the release, last week, of a report by the Ministry of Science and Technology showing that six per cent of China's 2,861 counties — mostly in western provinces — spent nothing on science and technology in 2003 (see Chinese science spending shows regional imbalance).

China's science minister Xu Guanhua, echoed Chen's comments, announcing at the same conference several other measures to promote science at the grassroots level.

The new policies include using achievements in scientific and technological development as a major criterion to promote local leaders, increasing supervision of local government to avoid science funding being appropriated elsewhere, and developing public, county-level, science and technology information networks.

These networks use practical technologies such as the Internet to provide farmers with market information and promote their produce to outside markets. China has developed such networks at the central, provincial and municipal levels, but in counties — the lowest level in China's administrative ladder — the networks have not been successful due to the lack of funds.

"Only when science and technologies are better promoted at the grassroots level, can the rapid progress in China truly benefit the people,'' Xu said.

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