Basic Studies for Original Innovations
Considering the general objectives of the National 973 Program and the major national demands for economic, social and S&T development, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology defined in early May 2003 the major priority supporting aspects for the last three years of the 10th Five-Year period for the Program.
With the goal of further enhancing the original S&T innovative capacity of the sector, agriculture-related basic research projects will focus on biogenomics and the improvement of the quality of agricultural products, the sustainable control of major agricultural diseases and pests, protection and utilization of biological resources for agricultural applications, improvement of the farming ecological environment, and efficient utilization of agricultural resources.
To ensure the security of an energy supply and related environmental protection, studies in the field of energy will concentrate on meeting China's huge energy demands on the basis of environmental protection. In addition, emphasis will be put on the key issues relating to efficient and clean burning of fossil fuels. These will include associated pollution control, and the large-scale processes of gas and liquefying of coal.
In the field of information, focus is placed on basic studies regarding information transmission, storage, display, security and acquisition, harmonic interactive environment and information processing in the Chinese language. Priority will be placed on electronic and photo-electronic technologies at micron or nanometer level, high performance computer system technology, high-speed information network and information security technology, natural interactive technology and key basic issues involving computation and control technology.
The development orientations defined for the field of resources environment include further improving the understanding of the variations of earth resources and environment, turning such understanding into knowledge and technologies able to find solutions for related problems for the purposes of making human activities more scientific and organized, providing a leading scientific base for addressing the major domestic resources and environment issues, and improving the macro decision making process on resources and environment in order to enhance the capacity of sustainable development. While raising the research levels, modern application technologies shall be extensively used to create new sources for original innovations. These will help the pillar industries and related technology and product development in the fields of resources and environment.
In the fields of population and health, the improvement of population and newborn quality and the prevention and control of the major diseases that seriously threaten Chinese people's health, such as SARS, have been listed as the major topics for research. Priority is placed on studies of molecular and cellular levels and on making the major issues on pathogenesis, prevention, and control of major diseases as the starting point. It is important to strive for theoretical and technical innovations and advances to form new prevention and treatment systems. These will enable China to meet new challenges in the fields of population and health and the improvement of people's health. All of these points will stimulate the development of science and technology, and accomplish the strategic goals of improved quality of life, population control and social advancement.
In the field of material sciences and its closely related engineering technologies, a number of scientific issues with priority will be selected to search for solutions, develop new theories and technologies, reduce pollution and energy consumption, and improve the performance and life span of traditional materials that are extensively applied in large quantity. These include iron and steel and materials used in the energy, transport, and construction sectors. The primary goal is to ensure that the needs of national construction and development are met. We are called upon to increase the technical contents of material preparation and the added values of materials, as well as to develop high tech materials for applications in newly emerging fields such as information, energy, aviation, and space. These will aid in making some of China's basic studies on materials sciences and engineering recognized in the international community.
Chinese and European Hybridizations
The latest findings on the two Nanjing Man's (ape man) skulls have indicated that in the long process of evolution, the Chinese Pithecanthropus community may have had limited exposure to “ab” extra genes. These important findings provide new fossil evidence for the scenario that modern man originally evolved from multiple continents and the Chinese ancient man evolved in a process consistent with the limited hybridization as proposed by both Chinese and foreign scientists in recent years.
In 1993, two human skulls dating back to the early development stage of human beings were unearthed in Hulu Cave of Tangshan Mountain in an eastern suburb of Nanjing Municipality. This has been considered another internationally notable finding following the discovery of the Peking Man, the Lantian Man, the Yuanmou Man and the Hexian Man, all in China. In recent years, Chinese scientists have conducted an integrated study on the skulls of the Nanjing Pithecanthropus in different disciplines, including paleoanthropology, paleontology, and geology. They have achieved a series of significant findings.
The scientific study has confirmed that the skulls of the Nanjing Man from Tangshan Mountain and the Peking Man discovered at Zhoukoudian, Beijing, belong to the same paleoanthropologic taxology, or the group referred to as the Pithecanthropus, who lived in the transitional age from ancient apes to modern man (or referred to later as intelligent man). The Nanjing Man No. 1 skull is a female aged between 21 and 35 years old and sharing numerous form features with those of the Beijing Man. Scientists have discovered, however, that the features of its high nasal bone and protruding frontal bone are rarely seen among other Chinese Pithecanthropus fossils, though they are frequently seen in European Pithecanthropus fossils.
The No. 2 skull of the Nanjing Man is a middle-aged male who shares many form features with the Pithecanthropus and has traces of the early intelligent man. These factors show that it may have lived in the transitional age from the Pithecanthropus to the intelligent man. What has surprised the researchers is an arrow-shaped bunch wide on top but narrow at the bottom seen on the frontal bone of the skull. This form feature runs counter against that in most Chinese Pithecanthropus, though it is close to the Pithecanthropus and the early intelligent man unearthed in Europe and Africa.
Based on the analysis above, Chinese scientists believe that the Nanjing Man shared some common features possessed by the ancient Chinese human fossils in different ages. This shows the genetic consistency of the evolution of the Chinese ancient man. However, the differing features seen in the Nanjing Man vividly demonstrate the possible exposure to external genes in its evolution process. Such a gene exchange, or hybridization, may have resulted in some similar features shared by both the Nanjing Man and their European counterparts, though scientists do not exclude the possibility that these features are genetic expressions inherited from an East Asian population that migrated from Africa in earlier times.
It is reported that the multi-discipline-based study has not yet reached a consensus on the time period when the Nanjing Man lived. The thermal ion mass spectrum and amino acid-based time measuring study lead us to believe that the Nanjing Man No. 1 skull could be dated back to 500,000 years ago and the No. 2 skull could have lived in a time period between 478,000 and 240,000 years ago. By making a comparison between the Nanjing Tangshan animal community and the Beijing Zhoukoudian animal community, mammalogists have inferred, that the No. 1 skull of the Nanjing Man lived in a time period between 500,000 and 330,000 years ago. Anthropologists calculate No. 2 skull of the Nanjing Man to the time period between 330,000 and 240,000 years ago based on its form features and its position above No. 1 skull.
China Takes the Lead in Cloning Rice Function Genes
A study team headed by Dr. Qian Qian of the Institute of Paddy Rice, a part of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, in collaboration with other scientists, has identified and separated the gene MOC1 that controls rice tilling and manipulates the formation and normal growth of the stalk buds.
By taking the extreme stalk gene mutations discovered in rice breeding as the base, the study has resulted in identifying and separating the gene MOC1 that controls rice stalks through genome positioning and cloning technology.
Scientists explained that MOC1 is the result of the implicit gene mutation in single genes. MOC1 is a transcription factor, or a member of the genetic transcription factor family uniquely possessed by plant genes. As a major gene that controls functions, MOC1 works on a sophisticated and complicated signal transmission network through which it sends commands to control the formation and normal development and growth of the stalk buds.
The finding made its debut in Nature Magazine published in Jun, 2003. This is China's first finding on plant and animal functional genes published in a world-renowned journal. This is also the first functional gene of a major crop's agricultural properties cloned by China having the proprietary right and application perspectives in the last two decades in the world. This demonstrates China's leading international position in the study of rice genes.
Converting MT from Herbs Thanks to their 8-year painstaking scientific research and development efforts, the researchers of Harbin Chunyuan Biotechniques Development Co. Ltd. have created a biological feed with special qualities. The feed has been developed from natural traditional herbs grown in Heilongjiang Province. The final result is based on numerous scientific experiments. The prescribed applications of the new bio-feed has enabled cows and hens to produce, through their internal conversion system, a large quantity of metallic sulfur protein or MT, a rare protein variety in their milk and eggs. The process has recently passed the evaluation check.
The experts of the evaluation panel believe that the natural fresh diary products and nutritional eggs rich in MT have reached the quality standards as defined by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture for fresh milk and egg products. As verified by research results for similar findings both at home and abroad, it is believed that the stated process is the first of its kind in the world.
Experts also believe that the milk and eggs produced through this process will be able to provide MT that is needed by the human body but cannot be provided by regular eggs or milk. This promises fine social benefits and remarkable economic returns from the special bio-feed. In the meantime, these MT-rich milk and egg products could become raw medicinal material useful in developing new drugs.
China Wins the “IT Oscar”
On June 2, 2003, the PC World Award Program, or “IT Oscar” as it is referred to by the world IT community, held its awards ceremony at the National Architecture Museum in Washington, DC., USA. The Institute of Atmospheric Physics, attached to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, won this year's top award in the field of sciences.
It is reported that this is the first time for a Chinese research institution to be crowned with the IT Oscar award. The Award Selection Committee pointed out that the analysis of large-scale climate phenomena such as El Nino by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has provided assistance in alleviating economic losses caused by climate changes and natural disasters. The effort was therefore voted to be the best information technology application project in the field of global sciences for the year.
In addition to this achievement, the online banking service project of the China Merchants Bank and the next generation Internet experimental platform for China's education and scientific research computer network also won the candidate nominations to compete for the final award in the banking and education sectors. China Merchants Bank is the first Chinese enterprise to be nominated for this award.
The National Manufacturing Information Center
After receiving the approval of the Department of High-Tech Development and Industrialization of the Ministry of Science and Technology, the National Training Center for Manufacturing Information Process was recently set up by the National Research Center on Application Software Engineering and Technology for the purpose of Industrial Information Processing. The new Center's mission includes the following major functions: training high caliber management personnel and lecturers for manufacturing information processes; preparing unified teaching materials on manufacturing information processes for nationwide applications; formulating the examination outlines for manufacturing information process training activities; creating a distant training network platform for manufacturing information processes; and undertaking the layout and construction of the nationwide training network for manufacturing information processes.
Gene Bank for Marine Medicines
Thanks to the 3-year tireless joint efforts of the No. 3 Institute of Oceanography, a part of the State Oceanic Administration Bureau, and the Chinese University of Oceanography, the marine biological resources project for medicinal applications and associated gene bank construction has passed its recent verification check. As an important basic research initiative, the project is believed to have far- reaching significance and academic importance, as well as broad application perspectives, involving the full utilization of China's marine resources and the development of its proprietary new drugs.
Since the launch of the project, the specimen bank has collected from the ocean 312 varieties of biological specimens with medicinal application values. The species bank gathered 397 specimens of 88 types of offshore microorganisms, 359 specimens of 65 types of extreme microorganisms, 165 algae in different varieties and 19 protists and fish cells. The gene bank of marine medicinal resources has thus far collected 45 species, of which 11 are from animals, 12 offshore microorganisms, 16 extreme microorganisms, and 6 algae specimens. As a prelude, the China Marine Medicinal Resources Information Database was put into online operation in October 2000. With a data volume approaching 40 MB, the information database has published the latest progress and findings concerning the marine medicinal specimen bank, species resources bank, and gene bank. The data collected provides the relevant information and data of more than 800 marine creatures of medicinal worth.
Third Plough I Satellite is in Position
China's Third Plough I Navigation and Positioning Satellite, launched not long ago, successfully found its home in an earth-synchronous orbit at 05:00 June 3, 2003 Beijing local time.
It took the new satellite 220 hours, as scheduled, to be positioned in its earth-synchronous orbit following the launch. During that time, the Xi'an Satellite Measuring and Control Center had, by way of an internationally advanced centralized control module, and organized its subordinated ground stations to conduct consecutive track-down and accurate control of the satellite. This made the satellite act on a dozen desired tasks such as earth capture, solar panel unfolding, repeated ignitions of onboard engines, and attitude readjustment among many other tasks. Upon its accurate entry into the orbit, the Center sent sophisticated instructions to finely tune its position and eventually make the satellite accurately sit above the equator.
It is reported that the Center will, as follow-up, test the onboard platform and the effective payload of the satellite so as to make sure that all the onboard systems work properly before its turn around delivery to the clients. So far, the China Space Measuring and Control Network has provided fine quality services for 78 domestic and overseas satellite operators, gaining a success rate of 100%.
Comments or inquiries on editorial matters or Newsletter content should be directed to:Mr. Cheng Jiayi, Department of International Cooperation, MOST 15B, Fuxing Road Beijing 100862, PR China Tel: (8610)68512650 Fax: (8610) 68512594