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[BEIJING] China has introduced tax breaks for organisations that promote science communication. Under new legislation introduced this month, science museums, planetariums, and laboratories in colleges and research institutions that regularly open their doors to the public will be exempt from import duties and value-added tax (VAT).

Publishers of scientific and technological newspapers and radio and video products are also now exempt from VAT, and science museums will no longer be required to pay business taxes on income from entry ticket sales.

"This could be good news for science museums across the country and for the work of [other organisations involved in] the public understanding of science, which need more funds,'' says Wang Xiaobin of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, China's largest non-governmental organisation dedicated to disseminating science to the public.

This is the first time since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949 that the government has implemented a preferential tax policy to enhance the public understanding of science.

Li Yongwei, an official in charge of science communication at the Ministry of Science and Technology, says that financial investment in science communication has long been insufficient, and that policies to support this field have been weak.

China has more than 400 science museums, two thirds of which are found in the more developed eastern areas of the country.

The government plans to promote science communication in the west of the country through an annual science week in May, and by encouraging academic institutes to disseminate scientific knowledge to teenagers, government officials and especially to farmers, who make up the bulk of China's population.