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[BEIJING] China intends to massively increase its scientific prowess and lift its population out of poverty by 2050, according to two key policies announced yesterday (9 February).

A strategy issued by the State Council will increase annual investment in research and development to 900 billion yuan (US$112 billion) by 2020.

This would boost the proportion of China's gross domestic product spent on research from today's 1.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

A separate plan, issued by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, lays out a blueprint for China to eradicate poverty and extend life expectancy to 80 years by 2050.

Gao Changlin, a senior researcher at the National Research Centre for Science and Technology for Development, says the State Council's strategy is important not only for its increase in investment but also because it states explicitly that China will use science as a tool for development.

The strategy identifies research priorities including energy, health, agriculture, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

It says that 60 per cent of China's economic growth should be based on science and technology by 2020, and that the country's reliance on foreign technology will drop to below 30 per cent, compared to more than 50 per cent today.

To achieve this, China will enact policies such as tax breaks to encourage private investment in R&D. The government will also encourage small and medium high-tech companies to go public overseas, says Gao, who helped in researching the strategy.

Gao told SciDev.Net that state funding for research and development should grow faster than private investment, adding that in most developed nations, government funding accounts for about 35 per cent of the total, compared to 30 per cent in China.

According to the CAS strategy, the lowest monthly salary in China will exceed US$1,300 by 2050. Its aim of transforming China into a knowledge-based society will hinge on millions of people moving from the countryside to suburban areas.