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[BEIJING] The role of science and technology in China's economic growth must almost double by 2050. This is the conclusion of Chinese scientists in a set of goals and predictions for the country's sustainable development, released on Sunday (11 February).

The authors, mostly from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), argue that science should account for 75 per cent of the country's economic rise, in contrast to the current 40 per cent. In developed countries like Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, science and technology contribute up to 80 per cent.

The 20-volume series is the work of 184 scientists, sociologists and policy researchers. Their reports examine population, food, energy, resources and the environment in the country.

One of their recommendations is that China should cut energy use per unit of gross domestic product (national energy intensity) 15 to 20 times by 2050.

But last year China failed to cut it down by four per cent. Today, its national energy intensity is three times higher than the world's average.

Despite this, Lu Yongziang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and chief editor of the outline, insisted the goals were scientifically sound and achievable.

Niu Wenyuan, CAS chief scientist for sustainable development, warned of some of the obstacles that China will face to reach these goals. These include a huge population, a worsening environment, limited energy and resources, and increasing social inequality, notably between cities and the countryside.

He said if China was to overcome these and achieve sustainable growth, it should maintain a rational economic growth speed, promote environment and resource-related scientific innovations, and pay more attention to social equality.

Zhang Jianyu, who heads the Beijing office of Environmental Defence, an American nongovernmental organisation, said the outline could provide comprehensive background information related to sustainable development to different social sectors in China.

"But whether it is appropriate to set out the clear-cut goals in the series needs careful consideration, as there is no fixed and universal model for sustainable development worldwide," Zhang told SciDev.Net.