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Xu Guanhua, China's minister of science and technology, announced last week (9 January) that China is to invest 5 billion yuan (US$600 million) in 12 key science and technology projects over the next five years.

Xu made the announcement at the annual national conference of science and technology held in Beijing. He said that the 5 billion yuan will be jointly invested by central and local governments, and that the projects will be developed mainly by enterprises working on market principles, with the government as a major sponsor.

The selected projects include very-large-scale integrated circuits and computer software, information security systems, e-administration and e-finance, functional gene-chips and bio-chips, electric automobiles, magnetic levitation trains, new medicines and modernisation of production of traditional Chinese medicines, intensive processing of farm produce, dairy product manufacturing, food security, water conservation, water pollution control and the establishment of key technical standards.

The government's intention to support work in these fields was already described in China’s Tenth Five-year Outline of Science and Technology Development (2002-2007) which was released last year. However last week's announcement is the first time that the government has revealed how much it is prepared to invest in these efforts.

In addition to the major investment, the government plans to raise production standards for information and biological technologies to allow Chinese enterprises to compete with foreign companies. It will also encourage the use of high technologies to transform traditional industries, including manufacturing, traditional Chinese drugs, and agriculture.

Xu said at last week's meeting that investment in agricultural research and development over the next five years will be three times higher than in the previous five years, and the total government investment in research and its application would be one and a half times higher.

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