1. It is a historic commitment for CAS staff to make fundamental, strategic and forward-looking contributions to the development of western China.
Monitoring ecological and environmental factors in the region, including the regional supervision of meteorological, hydrological and vegetation changes, as well as natural calamities.
The large-scale development strategy for western China is an essential component of Comrade Deng Xiaoping's strategic thinking on China's modernization drive, which encompasses the development of both the coastal areas and the interior. According to his thinking, the coastal areas in east China would take the initiative in development through opening to the outside world, and by the time their development level reached a certain stage, they should assist development in central and western China. The turn of the century has witnessed that China is realizing the second-stage target of its modernization drive, and approaching the third-stage target. At this moment, in consideration of the overall situation throughout the country, the third-generation leadership of the Party's Central Committee with Comrade Jiang Zemin at the core issued a call to develop China's west. Implementing this policy decision is of vital importance and of far-reaching historical significance. It is crucial to our efforts to boost domestic demand, promote sustained national economic growth, strengthen national unity, safeguard social stability and consolidate border defense, as well as bring about coordinated development of regional economies for eventual common prosperity.
In the new century, while continuing its efforts to accelerate development in east and central China, the Government will see to it that substantial progress will be made in the west region. The initial blueprint is to generate a fundamental change in both the social and the economic development of the region in 50 years. For the large-scale development in the region, the groundwork is to upgrade the local infrastructure; the cornerstone is to restore the local ecosystem and protect the environment; the key to its success lies in local industrial restructuring; the primary condition is to develop science and technology and educational undertakings; and the engine for growth is to speed up the current reform drive and opening-up process. Together with the formulation of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001--2005), departments and commissions under the State Council will probe key issues in this development strategy, draft plans, and progressively put them into practice.
It is a historic commitment bestowed by the Party and the people on the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) to make innovative contributions of primary, strategic and forward-looking significance to China's economic growth, national defense construction, and social progress. The academy will mobilize its resources and participate in the implementation of the development strategy in light of the overall situation and long-term development of China's modernization program, and in close conformity with the Party's decisions and instructions given by Comrade Jiang Zemin. This is a solemn and unshakable duty of the CAS staff, as well as an important part of the pilot project of Knowledge Innovation Program (KIP).
CAS has 23 research institutes (including fieldwork stations and botanic gardens) in the western hinterland. Most were established during the 1950s and 1960s to meet the urgent demands for the rehabilitation of ecosystems and the environment, the exploitation of natural resources, and the development of the regional economy. Over the past decades, their research professionals, in defiance of local harsh conditions, have made substantial contributions to social and economic development according to national targets. This contingent of S&T workers, which is deeply rooted in the soil of the region, should be the main force for our current participation in the campaign. Meanwhile, in light of national strategic goals for development in western China, our work to consolidate the research contingent and deploy and implement relevant tasks at different levels will bring in an upsurge of disciplinary developments at the CAS institutes in the region, and promote the adjustment of their internal structures and the construction of an innovative contingent of research professionals for the new century. As CAS institutes in central and east China feature a strong multi-disciplinary build-up in such fields as the environment, agriculture, biology and high technology, they could be complementary to the institutes in the western region. Provided it has well-defined targets, appropriate measures, meticulous organization and coordinated actions, the academy is therefore qualified to make contributions of fundamental, strategic and forward-looking significance to the region's development.
2. A work plan in accordance with the strategic goals of development in western China.
In line with the strategic targets set for the large-scale development of western China, and in light of the existing conditions and realities at the academy, CAS has decided to take the following actions:
(1) Establish a comprehensive data platform by launching a survey on the status quo of the local territorial resources and ecosystem; make clear the environmental situation in the region through probes into the regional evolutionary history; and provide scientific grounds for decision making regarding the concrete implementation of the development strategy in the region by focusing on studies of such major issues as water resources and desertification.
The natural environment in western China is complicated. Cold areas and arid regions exist side by side; the Loess Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are joined by common benches; and inland rivers flow in sharp relief against the desolate vastness of deserts. The fluvial systems of the Yellow and the Yangtze rivers share the same sources in the snow-capped mountains; the mountain-locked land mass in southwestern China is crisscrossed by xerothermal valleys. Biodiversity in the region is unique, fecund and diverse. However, for a long time, there have been severe confrontations between ecological sensitivity, environmental fragility and the need for environmental protection on the one hand, and the exploitation of natural resources on the other. Since the founding of New China in 1949, many on-the-spot surveys of territorial resources and local ecosystems in the region have been organized or carried out by governments at various levels, and R&D bodies and universities, harvesting a great wealth of precious data. Yet, they varied in spatial distribution and temporal coverage, as well as in methodological norms. In the past 20 years in particular, the ecological and environmental setting of the hinterland has seen a radical change, leading to a lack of systematic, comprehensive and continuous understanding of the real situation. It is therefore necessary to conduct a new round of integrated surveys in the region, with a stress on the northwest, and analyze the existing data. These surveys should be carried out with state-of-the-art technology, in line with the national deployment and based on existing materials. Apart from the exploration of its current state, the academy should carry out studies on the evolutionary history of the ecosystem and environment, sorting out the process of its evolutionary process and defining its evolutionary stages and positions.
A great number of peculiar factors have handicapped development in western China. The problems of water shortages and desertification in the northwest are serious due to low precipitation. Loose-structured topsoil and water-and-soil erosion on the Loess Plateau shed an ominous shadow over half of China's territory. The imposing Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is noted for its frigid climate and fragile ecosystems. Although southwest China has ample rainfall each year, water is deficient in the soil of karst areas. Xerothermal valleys constitute another unique geological feature in humid southwest China. Water shortages also find their expression in the devastating soil depletion in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Although the region is noted for diversified biological population and rich biodiversity, many scientific problems are in need of an in-depth exploration regarding the protection, exploitation and utilization of this special natural endowment.
In addition, the regional economies are relatively underdeveloped in western China, and their industrial structure is very irrational. Only after getting a clear understanding of the current state of territorial resources, the evolutionary history of the environment, and other crucial problems concerning the indigenous ecosystems can we make effective analysis and work out a rational layout for industrial composition in the region. Hence, such issues as water resources, water-and-soil depletion, desertification, biodiversity and readjustment of industrial structure are crucial, typical, and representative problems in the coordinated development of environmental protection, ecological conservation, and socio-economic progress. Each of them is of unique importance and interactive one to another. They should be considered and examined in their entirety when designing the overall development blueprint for China's west.
In handling the above-listed problems, our academy will proceed through multi-disciplinary cross-breeding, synthesis of R&D results and systematic studies, so that a solid theoretical foundation will be laid for the long-time exploitation of natural resources in the western wilderness.
(2) Improving the environment and ecosystem monitoring network on the basis of existing fieldwork stations, and establishing demonstration projects for environment restoration and ecological agriculture in some typical regions.
The academy has now set up 22 fieldwork stations in ecosystems typical of China's west. Six of them are outposts designed to monitor farming practices: the experimental integrated water and soil conservation station in Ansai County, Shaanxi Province; the integrated experimental station for farming ecology in Changwu County, Shaanxi Province; the experimental station for ecology in Guyuan County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region; the experimental station for desert ecology in Fukang County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; the experimental station for farming ecology in Yanting County, Sichuan Province; and the experimental station for farming ecology in Dagze, Tibet Autonomous Region.
There are two outposts for forest monitoring: the Mt. Gongga ecosystems research station in Tibet Autonomous Region, and the positioning station for forest ecosystems in Maowen Qiang Minority Nationality Autonomous County, Sichuan Province.
There are two fieldwork stations exclusively engaged in monitoring grasslands: the station for meadow ecosystems in high and cold Haibei Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province; and the grassland experimental station in Bayanbulak, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
There are five desert-surveying stations: the experimental research station in Shapotou, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region; the integrated desertification experimental station in Qira County; the Turpan desert research station; the Mosouwan desert research station in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; and the integrated experimental station in Linze, Jiangsu Province.
There are seven outposts engaged in monitoring extraordinary ecological phenomena: the glacier observation and experiment station in the Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; the mud-rock flow observation and research station at Dongchuan City, Yunnan Province; the hailstorm cloud observation station in Pingliang County, Gansu Province; the integrated observation and research station on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, at Golmud, Qinghai Province; the natural scenery observation and monitoring station at Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province; the snow pack and avalanche experiment and monitoring station in the Tianshan Mountains; and the isorrhea experimental station in Aksu County in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
For a long time, our fieldwork scientists have been carrying out a great number of outdoor observations and field experiments in harsh working and living conditions, accumulating a wealth of hydrological, ecological and environmental data.
In line with the implementation of the national strategy to develop China's west, the academy will improve its monitoring network for the environment and ecology on the basis of necessary readjustment and further building up the existing fieldwork stations in the region. This is an important part of the academy's efforts to actively participate in the development of the region. In the overall layout, our plan is to engage in the following four aspects of the current framework of fieldwork outposts stationed in typical ecosystems:
Keeping a general lookout over agricultural production factors in the region, including the regional monitoring of soil moisture, cropland fertility, and indexes of crops in different growth stages.
The dynamic monitoring of the macroscopic eco-environment in the region, including land use, land coverage, and after-effects of natural disasters by using remote-sensing, GPS, GIS, and other advanced means.
The initiation, inspection, evaluation and auditing of demonstration districts for ecological conservation in typical areas in the region.
Targeting different typical ecosystems, efforts will be made to set up five demonstration experiment districts for ecological conservation:
A station for water and soil conservation, ecological restoration and environmental protection on the Loess Plateau, which will be engaged in demonstrations of research and experiments on the work against water loss and soil erosion, the development of water-saving agriculture, and ecological conservation.
A demonstration experiment district for controlling desertification and managing oasis ecosystems, with a focus on the rehabilitation of desertified land, the construction of oasis ecosystems, and oasis agriculture.
A demonstration experiment district for integrated management of the water-ecology-economic system in the valley of the Heihe River, Gansu Province, with a focus on the development of integrated management of water-ecology-economic systems for inland river systems in an arid area through positioned surveys and the construction of typical ecosystems.
A demonstration district for monitoring and protection of the ecological setting, and its response to global climate change, in the high-elevation, frigid area of the sources of the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers. Its working assignments include ecological surveys and countermeasures, and restoration and rebuilding of the damaged ecosystems.
A demonstration district for the integrated harnessing of and experiments on ecological preservation and environmental protection in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Based on the network of CAS fieldwork stations, this district will explore approaches for restoring the ecosystems in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, provide scientific grounds, knowhow, and demonstrations for the integrated rehabilitation of the ecosystems in karst limestone areas.
As soon as the local conditions permit, the academy will immediately launch both the pilot research and experimental work for introducing precision agriculture to the west.
(3) Making concerted efforts to develop appropriate technologies with a focus on the exploitation of salt lake resources in Qinghai Province and the integrated utilization of petroleum and natural gas resources in the western region; strengthening the efforts to develop such new energy sources as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, and setting up demonstration projects.
The salt lakes in the western region are noted for their rich salt resources, including those of potassium, manganese, lithium and boron, and their enormous economic potential. While exploring and exploiting these resources, we should bear in mind the fragility of local ecosystems. While developing the potassium fertilizer industry, we must attach special importance to the integrated exploitation of the associated resources. At the present stage, emphasis will be placed on the salt lakes of Qarhan, Qaidam and Eastern Taijnar, tackling key technological issues in the separation and extraction of Li, Mg, K, and B from their brines, and in the production of their chemical products. This work will be carried out by the CAS Institute of Salt Lakes in Qinghai in alliance with other institutes. In coordination with the development of the chemical industry by the lakes, a sustained effort will be made to carry out studies on their water dynamics and water chemical dynamics (including real-time measurement).
Western China is rich in petroleum and natural gas, and is noted for their coexistence. So carrying out joint exploration and utilization of the two is of prime significance. With a long-time S&T build-up in prospecting and developing these resources, the academy will carry out research and development on technology packages regarding the transformation of natural gas resources into liquid fuels, chemical products, refined chemicals and new materials, and on upgrading the petroleum recovery rate in the region. This work will be carried out by an outstanding research contingent equipped with new technologies, such as catalytic technology, chemical engineering processing and catalytic processing, and by seeking cooperation with local enterprises in diversified forms and at different levels. In light of local disadvantages, like sparse population, and insufficient hydro-power and coal reserves, the academy will commit itself to the development of solar, wind and geothermal energy sources, and launch demonstration projects to promote the popularization of these technologies. On the basis of the existing work, we will initiate some sample projects on solar power generation, solar air-conditioning, solar heating, and power generation by both wind and light energy and the application of geothermal energy. Efforts will be made to spread the technologies to the whole region.
In addition, in the light of current efforts on intensive processing of crops and increasing their added value, farming expertise and technical information systems, water-saving agriculture, and ecological harnessing of desertified wasteland, the academy will carry out research and development of new materials and related technologies for trickle and drip irrigation systems, which are economical, efficient, and suitable for the region.
(4) Given the abundant biological resources in China's west, sustained socio-economic development in the region will be ensured by strengthening studies on the protection of strategic bio-resources and biodiversity, efficient exploitation and utilization by dint of modern scientific measures, and restoring and rebuilding areas where the ecosystem has been damaged.
Western China is noted for its rich biodiversity. This diversity is a result of the region's latitudinal vastness, and its great variations of elevation and climate. This is a priceless legacy endowed by nature, and we should treasure and take care of it. A single but distinctive gene may give rise to an industry, and a biological species of great economic value may have a critical impact on the local economy. The effective protection of species in western China (and particularly in southwest China) will affect the future development of the national economy. For various reasons, however, the biodiversity in the region is decreasing, and ecosystems have been ravaged. Although living bio-resources are renewable, the extinction of an individual species is irrevocable. We therefore need not only a benign and interactive mechanism for both the protection and exploitation of our natural endowment, but we also have to repair and restore all damaged or depleted ecosystems.
Regarding resource conservation, the academy will take advantage of the existing framework and enhance the construction of CAS-run botanic gardens in the region (such as those in Xishuang Banna, Kunming and Chengdu), and also those co-established with local authorities (including those in Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan Province, and in Zongdian County and Lijiang City in Yunnan Province). We will also set up a wildlife germplast bank. Vigorous efforts will be made to preserve living individuals of species or viable seeds, ex-situ cells, tissues, organs and DNA samples in every possible way, including on-the-spot protection and relocation. Particular attention should be paid to rare or endangered species and those with strategic significance or economic value.
Regarding the sustained utilization of biological resources, the academy will select more than 100 floral species with promising potential and significant research value, especially plants that are important in the agricultural, pharmaceutical and industrial fields and that could be put into industrial production. We strive to achieve a preliminary success in the industrialization of about 10 such plants. Together with the ongoing drive to standardize medicinal herbs in Chinese traditional medicine, comprehensively utilize Tibetan traditional medicine, and develop wildlife resources for farming, the academy will make efforts to find drugs that are highly effective against major diseases, and breed improved grain varieties of high yield, good quality, strong resistance against adversity, and suited to the environment of western China.
Regarding the restoration and rebuilding of damaged ecosystems, our work will be in line with the successful experience we have achieved in the past. We will select typical cases of impaired ecosystems (such as those in tropical and sub-tropical areas in southwestern China, the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers, as well as transition belts between farming and herding areas) as our research targets. Our aim is to explore workable models for harmonizing the restoration effort with a robust development of local economies. Then the acreage of our experiments is to be increased. Through close collaboration with local authorities, the restoration may be progressively expanded to cover the whole area in question.
3. Speeding up work to attract and stabilize outstanding young professionals, and build up an innovative contingent in line with the development needs of western China.
In the process of actively participating in the development of the western region and making contributions to regional economic growth, a key effort is to build bases with S&T innovation capacity in the region, and launch special innovative initiatives to cope with problems concerning natural resources, ecological balance, and social and economic progress. The most important is to attract and develop a contingent of research professionals deeply rooted in the region. So, when we are engrossed in the regional deployment of various S&T activities, we must attach special importance to the construction of an innovative contingent as a measure of strategic significance in the campaign.
The academy will attract and stabilize outstanding young professionals to take part in various S&T activities in the region by increasing its budget for the Program of the Light in China's Western Region (LCWR). Together with the implementation of research projects, the academy will increase its financial input to LCWR, expanding its finance scope of and strengthening its support for individual projects. In addition, it is emphasized that the layout of LCWR should be oriented more closely to both national targets and the demands of local social and economic development. Those projects now in implementation must be systematically inspected and assessed. Serious efforts will be made to increase the enrollment of postgraduates in CAS institutes in the region, and improve the quality of their students by upgrading postgraduate programs and setting up an intensive training base for postgraduates in the region. The number of post-doctoral programs in the region will be increased gradually to recruit more scholars from those disciplines with strong academic build-up. In line with its reality, the region will be given preferential treatment in the implementation of the "One Hundred Talents Program" and the "Program to Recruit Outstanding Personnel from Abroad."
Fieldwork always plays an irreplaceable role in natural resources investigation, environmental protection and ecosystem restoration. Historically, the academy used to be the main force in the field surveys in the country. Recent years, however, have seen an ominous development: the aging of research professionals, a lack of qualified successors, and a drop in academic level. Related departments of CAS will launch field investigations in line with the implementation of development in the western region. In this move, outdoor surveys will be mainly carried out by scientists summoned from research institutes in the region, with the active participation of their colleagues from eastern and central China. Through teamwork, it is expected that the fieldwork scientists in the academy will sharpen their professional capability, consolidate the whole contingent, and raise its overall strength and research level.
4. Giving further play to academic divisions' consulting role
The CAS Academic Divisions always take it as their primary task to offer consulting service on key S&T issues vital to national development. Since 1999, they have put emphasis on strategic research for the sustained development of the western region, and submitted a batch of reports to the State Council. These reports include: "Suggestions for accelerating development in northwest China early in the 21st century," "A consultant report on sustainable farming development on the Loess Plateau," "Suggestions for the sustainable development of agriculture, ecosystem, and the environment in Xinjiang," "A suggestion on listing the Tarim River in the national plan to harness China's major rivers," "A suggestion on rational exploitation of water resources and saving the indigenous ecosystems from breakdown in the reaches of the Heihe and Shiyang rivers in Gansu Province," and "A proposal on establishing a national system of stable supply of potash fertilizers." These reports were evaluated very highly by the central authorities and government departments. In the future, when we are deploying S&T activities for development, we will organize scientists to conduct specialized studies in line with a unified and selective plan. Through forums, symposia, workshops and consulting reports, we will provide more high-quality consultant service to the campaign's decision makers.
5. Policies and measures for the campaign
The Leading Party Member Group at CAS has decided to set up a leading group to deal with the implementation of the CAS action plan for the development of the western region. The group's director is Prof. Chen Yiyu, a CAS vice president, while Shi Erwei and Qin Dahe are its vice directors. The other members of the group come from CAS functional departments like the General Office, the Joint Office of CAS Academic Divisions, the Bureau of High Technology Research & Development, the Bureau of Basic Science, the Bureau of Personnel & Education, the Bureau of Life Science & Biotechnology, the Bureau of S&T for Resources & the Environment, the Bureau of Hi-tech Industry Development, the Bureau of Comprehensive Planning, and the Bureau of Capital Construction. The leading group's routine work includes coordination of the initiation and organization of related key projects, forming the R&D contingent, cooperation with regional, provincial and municipal authorities, and playing host to consulting activities. The office of the group is located in the Bureau of S&T for Resources & Environment.
The Party's leading organ at the CAS has decided to organize some multi-disciplinary R&D projects associated with the campaign, and several sub-projects are attached to them. A sum of 250 million yuan from the CAS Knowledge Innovation Program is to be earmarked for them, in addition to the responsive financial support we strive to win from both the national and regional governments. In rallying all R&D strengths from the CAS system, we want to emphatically attract research institutes in eastern China to join the western expedition in line with the CAS action plan.
Feasible and realistic policies are to be formulated and tilted towards the campaign. Besides the R&D projects to be initiated, CAS will not neglect the attraction and training of talents. Furthermore, it will perfect the infrastructure construction of fieldwork stations and outposts in western China, and intensify the reform drive at its branches and subordinate research institutes so that the academy may have a solid foundation for a booming western development at the dawn of the new century.
To win multilateral support, CAS will strengthen cooperation with government departments and regional administrations, and unclog the channels linking our action plan with the capital construction plans which have been worked out by national, provincial or municipal authorities.
The CAS leadership would like to lodge an appeal to all the organs and units at various levels in the CAS system, in particular to the research institutes in the western hinterland, that it will take initiatives to join hands with governments at different levels and various economic entities in western China. CAS must establish close connections with them and do a good job of its tasks, such as the definition of its own R&D targets, hi-tech development, and the training of our staff members. By so doing CAS will make its due contributions to the social and economic development of the western hinterland in the years to come.