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Technology Remolds China over Last Century
Science answers the question "why," while engineers modify nature according to scientific principle, construct a new society, and tell people how to do it.

The material civilization that people enjoy in modern society is mainly created by engineering technology. Therefore, engineers are irreplaceable creators of new industry.

In fact, science and technology made great strides in the 20th century.

Estimates reveal that 80 percent of global scientific discoveries, technological innovations and engineering constructions were attributed to scientists and engineers of the 20th century.

Engineering achievements in the 20th century surpassed the wildest imagination of people in the 19th century.

But China's history is completely different from the rest of the world.

When New China was founded in 1949, after the Chinese experienced a century of humiliation and war, the Chinese people had to start the industrialization process from scratch, 200 years after Europe.

We are gratified to see that Chinese scientists and engineers have made historic contributions to their motherland, even with some twist and turns.

From the Jingzhang (Beijing-Zhangjiakou) Railway and Yumen Oilfield to Qiantang Bridge built by the Chinese in the early 20th century; from the Daqing Oilfield and the Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing to the nuclear energy in the 1960s; from satellites to hybrid rice in the 1970s and 1980s, all these achievements paved the way for China's era of industrialization and modernization.

Within 50 years, China succeeded in establishing an independent industrial system.

Since the opening-up and reform of the country initiated by Deng Xiaoping, Chinese engineers have made further critical contributions to the high-speed economic growth, which has averaged 9 percent annually, and to the marked social progress of the past 20 years.

At the beginning of the new century, members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) and other people from associations and societies under the China Association for Science and Technology, together with agencies affiliated with the State Council, cast their ballots to select "significant achievements of engineering technology in China in the 20th century," an activity sponsored by CAE.

The peer ballot selected 25 items as the most significant for China and the achievements' stories are being compiled into a document to provide the society with a comparatively accurate description on the importance of engineering technology in China.

China's research and development in atomic energy and satellites ranked the first on the ballot.

The decision to develop atomic energy and space technology, made by the late Chairman Mao Zedong, was of great significance.

When the decision was made between 1955 and 1956, the People's Republic of China was young and there was a lack of qualified experts. Science and technology were backward, and the industrial system was not established.

However, it took only 15 years for Chinese scientists and engineers to complete the design and construction of, and successful experiments with, missiles (1964), the atomic bomb (1964), and the hydrogen bomb (1967). China also sent its first satellite into orbit in 1970, and its first nuclear-powered submarine set sail in 1971.

These achievements put an end to the dispute about whether China could develop its industry, science and technology by itself.

Looking back, we have reason to be gratified by all the Chinese engineering community achieved in the 20th century.

But looking forward, all that is only a prelude to a bigger industrialization drive. The climax of the industrialization and modernization drive is still to come.

(China Daily November 26, 2002)

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