The gateway to China is opening. In the process, the country with the second largest economy in the world is fundamentally redefining its political, economic, and scientific relations with the West. The strategic bridges now under construction will guide international exchange well into the 21st century. And the rapid development in the life sciences will make China a biological research partner of strategic importance.

In this feature, Science's Next Wave explores this intermingling with essays from visionary leaders in China and elsewhere, as well as firsthand reports from U.S., European, and Chinese scientists who have worked in each other's countries. Interested? You'll also find information about the organizations that fund these exchanges.

Some facts about China: One-fifth of the world's population lives in China. In 1999, with its 1.25 billion inhabitants and a gross domestic product of $3800 per capita, China became the second largest economy in the world after the United States.

Since Deng Xiaoping decentralized economic decision-making, economic output quadrupled. Agricultural output doubled in the 1980s and industry grew by nearly 9% per year. Substantial foreign investment helped spur output of both domestic and export goods.

And China's impending membership in the World Trade Organization late this year or early next year will offer unprecedented opportunities to enter a previously forbidden marketplace. Just 2 weeks ago, the U.S. Senate passed the permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) bill, a measure aimed at further opening China's markets, bringing billions of dollars in new business to American companies.

This month, the National Science Foundation of China and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) will open a Joint Centre for the Advancement of Science in Beijing. In his editorial for Next Wave's feature, DFG General Secretary Reinhard Grunwald shares with us his views and visions of the scientific exchange with the People's Republic of China, including the great opportunities for young scientists in both countries.

In his exclusive contribution to our feature, the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Lu Yongxiang, emphasizes China's strong interest in international cooperation and interaction among young scientists. Lu reflects upon the enormous impact that rocketing scientific and economic exchange imposes upon China at the dawn of an era that will see dramatically changing relationships among science and technology, the global economy, nature, and society.

In another exclusive, an interview with Science Editor Ellis Rubinstein, China's President Jiang Zemin offers a glimpse of a new China that is encouraging young scientists to study abroad and to use the Internet for their work. On occasion of this special feature, Science's Next Wave has reposted the portions of the interview that focus particularly on questions of international cooperation and scientific exchange.

Overseas study has become increasingly popular among China's young scientists. Maolian Gong, a young Chinese scientist who currently works at Germany's Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine's "microsatellite centre," writes about her experiences with top gene research in a multinational research environment.

Song Qi Jun, a native Chinese who currently studies at the University of Hull, UK, tells us about his journey through the Chinese and Western higher education systems and reflects about their differences.

In the UK, Mike Adams, project leader at the Plant Pathology Department at the Institute of Arable Crops Research, set up a successful collaboration the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Hangzhou, China, to fight mosaic viruses in wheat. And Mike gives you many valuable tips for establishing thriving collaborations.

Siegfried Englert, managing director of the East Asia Institute at Ludwigshafen School of Business in Germany and former CEO of the China division of SAP, a world leading software house, shares with us his inspiring and personal views on cooperation with a different culture.

European scientists and industries who wish to interact with China in the field of biotechnology should have a close look at EBNIC, the European Biotechnology Node for Interaction with China. So says Mary Gannon, EBNIC program manager at the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). In her article for this feature, Gannon tells Next Wave readers about the background and scope of this ground breaking program.

Turning to facts and figures, Next Wave's Vid Mohan-Ram summarizes the current situation of Chinese Ph.D.'s and postdocs in the Western world, telling you all you want to know about the scientific and economic culture in China.

Katie Farr, GrantsNet editor, gives you a valuable and detailed survey of grants and exchange programs with the People's Republic of China.

And for those of you that want to find out more about exchange with China, we have compiled a resource page including links to exchange programs, research funding organizations, networks, and special funding programs.