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[BEIJING] China has announced ambitious plans to court top foreign scientists to work alongside its own researchers.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) — the nation's research flagship — says it will aim to attract 1,500 "outstanding" foreign scientists and scholars, promising them more research funding than they were receiving at home.

Under one scheme — Specially Hired Foreign Research Fellows — foreign researchers above the level of associate professor will go to China for three to six month collaborative research projects.

Another scheme, the Youth Foreign Scientist Project, will subsidise scientists with doctorate degrees from leading universities to spend up to two years in China.

"These two projects will introduce more than 200 foreign researchers in total every year, and the financial aid will be higher than their research funding outside China," Lv Yonglong, chief of the international cooperation bureau of CAS, told journalists during the academy's annual meeting. But CAS did not disclose the total budget for the project.

It is the first time CAS has operated a scheme to attract foreign scientists on a large scale. The academy also announced plans to attract more Chinese scientists back to their home country.

The 100-Talent Programme, launched in mid 1990s, has already attracted more than 1,300 Chinese scientists home.

Now there are plans to lure a further 600 scientists and high-level technicians each year.

"CAS will offer financial aids to these outstanding talents, and their research funding will be much more than the previous 100-Talent Programme, under which, each scientist is given an average of 2.7 million Chinese yuan (around US$397,058) in research funding per year," said Li Hefeng, director of the personnel and education bureau of CAS.

Yan Denghua, associate professor at the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, welcomed the plan.

"Foreign scientists' ideas and training can surely rub off on Chinese scientists," he said.