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The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China's largest research body, will conduct more activities with other developing countries to help them build their scientific and technological capacity.

According to CAS president Lu Yongxiang, previous foreign aid programmes "focused on infrastructure construction and providing medical assistance for underdeveloped countries. But efforts to help them increase their science and technology capacity have more long-term benefits."

At the CAS annual working conference in Beijing this week (19–21 March), Lu said the programmes would mainly involve China's neighbouring countries and focus on mutually beneficial areas where Chinese scientists have superior knowledge, skills and resources.

Programmes are already underway to build a royal botanic park in Cambodia and help Venezuela investigate how to prevent mudslides. Plans have also been agreed with Mongolia and Kazakhstan to develop the geological sciences.

Lu revealed that CAS is also exploring joint research programmes with South American and African nations, with the aim of making collaborative research its primary form of international assistance.

In addition, CAS will continue to offer 50 PhD scholarships each year through the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) to enable students from developing countries to study in China.

In addition, the academy recently established grants for young scientists to conduct research collaborations within CAS in China, the exact figures for which were not stated.

The grants follow pledges made at the China-Africa Summit in November, where Chinese president Hu Jintao promised to double the number of African students on its annual scholarship scheme to 4,000 by 2009 (see African science to benefit from China trade deal).

Xue Hong, director for development assistance research at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation welcomed the plans.

He said the Minister of Commerce, Bo Xilai, had held talks with Lu and other CAS leaders specifically about increasing science and technology assistance for developing countries.

"As a developing country itself, China should give more technical aid through the infrastructure and equipment projects it offers to other developing countries," Xue told SciDev.Net.

He added that common interests and benefits between China and other developing nations for joint basic research programmes should be explored further.