China was once a superpower in science and technology. But as a result of the constraints of the shut-the-door isolationism of the feudal social system that was in place for more than 2000 years, the country's expertise and status in this arena has been slipping. Due to the adoption of progressive ideas on the other face of the planet, however, Western countries have made remarkable progress and enjoyed unprecedented flourish in science and technology since the Renaissance.
This situation is beginning to change. Over the past 50 years, and especially during the past 20 years of social and economic reform, the Chinese government has attached great importance to the development of science and technology. The program of rejuvenating our nation through science and technology, a strategy the government has adopted for the past 10 years, has not only promoted economic growth and social development, but it has also encouraged scientific and technological exchange between China and the West.
Science is borderless. Or at least it should be, because principle has it that science and technology can only thrive through international cooperation and interaction. At present, this interaction is most obviously characterized by global economic integration, although the globalization and internationalization of modern scientific and technological development is increasingly intensifying. Data gathered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) are very revealing. The annual number of international exchange visits for CAS scholars rocketed from over 700 in the late 1970s to more than 5000 in the late 1990s, an almost seven-fold increase. Over the past 20 years or so CAS scholars have participated in nearly 50,000 short- and long-term academic exchange visits.
The Chinese government, along with Chinese science and technology workers, considers interactions and partnerships with Western counterparts to be critical. To contribute to basic science and to push back the frontiers of scientific understanding, CAS has undertaken a few "mega" science projects, including the Beijing Electron-Positron Collider, the Heavy Ion Accelerator in Lanzhou, and the Large-size Super-Conductivity Tokamak Device in Hefei. With the active cooperation of our international partners we not only been able to build and operate these facilities, we have also achieved scientific advances of global import.
Furthermore, we have entered into a wide range of collaboration with Western scientists in such areas as environment, climate, energy, agriculture, and water resources, efforts that have contributed to the concept of sustainable development. Nevertheless, China wishes to do a lot more work with the Western science and technology community. Pressing ahead with the big science projects will be crucial if humankind is to further advance the frontiers of science, improve industrial and technological performance, and promote economic and social development.
The ongoing scientific and technological revolution is not only taking place in the science and technology (S&T) arena, it is also impacting China's emerging economy. S&T collaboration aside, China has been ramping up its efforts to cooperate with foreign enterprises and other organizations, trying to commercialize our accomplishments in S&T. Our cooperation programs are not only bilateral; many are multilateral partnerships with international S&T organizations and institutions. These cooperative projects include basic research projects, as well as more applied efforts, agriculture, human health, and the environment. Regardless of the project, China is committed to hold to the principles of mutual respect, mutual benefit, equality, and reciprocity; in particular, we intend to honor intellectual property rights.
It is very encouraging to see collaboration in a full range and of various kinds on the rise. And although Chinese work with Europeans and Americans, we never forget to learn from the Japanese and talented people in many other countries. Modern science is an integrated system and the product of all human intelligence. Whether developed or developing, every country has its own achievements and its own contributions to make to global scientific knowledge.
To this end, China is also reaching out to developing countries to cement our partnerships with them. We have, for example, maintained a close partnership with the Third World Academy of Sciences , which includes Brazil, Israel, and neighboring countries such as North Korea, India, and Singapore. China's ongoing cooperation and interaction with the international community allows us to exchange scientific views with others, enrich our scientific theories, improve our management methods, accelerate our S&T innovation and research and development capability, instill a global vision in many talented people, and help make our due contributions to the world's scientific development.
At the dawn of a new era, the speed of S&T development is accelerating at a stunning pace, the knowledge economy is taking shape, international competition is growing increasingly fierce, and, accordingly, international cooperation is further expanding. The research target of science in the 21st century is hugely complex, and the relationships among science and technology, economies, nature, and society will be dramatically changed. The key areas of international cooperation will include the environment, information science, life sciences, brain and cognition science, matter and energy science, among others.
China's response to these challenges and opportunities will be to adopt new strategies to strengthen our ties and cooperation with Western counterparts and the rest of the world. These strategies may include support for global and regional scientific research, actively engaging Chinese scientists in large collaborative projects, further opening up some big state-level S&T bases and projects, drawing foreign S&T institutions and scientists into our basic and high-technology research projects, building up a well-functioning and resource-sharing information network, perfecting our talent-training mechanism, and encouraging the exchange or flow of talents.
China has a population of 1.2 billion, a history of 5000 years, and was once one of the key contributors to the world scientific and technological community. While we are learning from advanced Western countries, we should work even harder to deliver newer and greater contributions to our own people and to the whole of humanity. To this end, China will further commit itself to world scientific and technological development and devote more effort toward international cooperation and growth. We will do our best to deliver the maximum contribution toward the peaceful development of society and the advance of human civilization.