On the 15th General Assembly of the Members of CAS

Special Issue

August, 2010

15th General Assembly of Members of CAS Work Report

Closing Address

Thematic Lectures Tan Kah Kee Science Awards 2010  

Closing Address

Embracing the New Era of Knowledge-based Civilization
-----Closing Address at the 15th General Assembly of the Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
by Lu Yongxiang
June 10, 2010

Respected Members and Comrades:

The 15th General Assembly of the Members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is drawing to a close after four days of meetings and discussions. At the Assembly, President Hu Jintao made an important speech in which he not only gave his deep insight, thoughts and analysis on the current global situation, but also mapped out a blueprint for the future development of science and technology in China. His speech is a call and order of mobilization to us all to strengthen scientific and technological innovation in the new era and to build China into an innovation-oriented one. State Councilor Liu Yandong also delivered a speech on the status of science and technology work in China. Our Members have carefully studied and discussed these speeches and have given their opinions and suggestions. They have also reviewed and endorsed the work report by the Presidium of the Academic Divisions and other work reports concerned. Our Members have also summarized the work of the Academic Divisions since the 14th General Assembly and put forward many good advice and suggestions based on analyzing the new situation and tasks that the Academic Divisions faces in an effort to bring into full play the role of the Academic Divisions in advising decision-makings, playing the academic leadership role and setting up role-models on scientific morality and ethics. The Presidium will study these advice and suggestions carefully and will adopt whatever it is appropriate in practice. We have also further clarified the objectives, methodology and priorities of the work of the Academic Divisions and have made progress in the relevant reform. In addition, the annual academic meeting was also held, and the 2010 Tan Kah Kee Science Awards were conferred during the Assembly.

The 15th General Assembly of the Members is one that aims at thoroughly implementing the Scientific Development Outlook, further clarifying the situation and tasks we face, and further identifying the objectives of our future work. It is one that aims at seeking the scientific truth, democracy, practicality, unity and success while holding high the banner of science. I wish all of you will bring the essence of the Assembly back to your work, put it into practice, and strive to open up a new page of development for the work of the Academic Divisions with concerted efforts.

Respected Members and Comrades!

The world is undergoing great transformation and changes as stated by President Hu: í░the role of science and technology as a cornerstone and original driver in the progress of human civilizations has become increasingly more outstandingí▒, and science and technology í░has not only brought about physical changes to the world, but has also exerted profound impacts on the progress of human civilizationí▒. Reviewing the evolution of the human civilization, we can clearly see that science and technology as the productivity force has created huge physical wealth, and as crystallized human wisdom, it has created brilliant and colorful culture. Science and technology has left its footprints in the evolution and progress of human civilization. It not only enabled man to enter the stage of civilization from barbarism, but has enabled them to continuously reveal and understand nature, to transform nature and to seek the harmonious co-existence with nature through the continuous distillation of human rationalities. It has enabled man to continuously pursue and create better lives and harmonious societies.

Along with the progress of human civilization, science and technology has gone through a diversified process of development. The great ancient civilizations including ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, India, and China all produced splendid achievements in ancient science and technology. Philosophy and mathematics in ancient Greece were at the peak of western scientific knowledge in ancient times. Works as such Term Logic and Physics by Aristotle, Almagest by Ptolemaeus, Elements by Euclid of Alexandria, Hippocrates Corpus by Hippocrates of Kos, and On Floating Bodies by Archimedes are all the great representative works in western science in ancient times. The systematic and logical characteristics, the attitude towards nature and the methodology of inquiry displayed in these works can be regarded as the heralds of modern science.

The long-term interactions and even collisions among different civilizations in ancient times were the basic preconditions for the emergence of modern science and technology and social civilizations. In the period of two thousand years before the outbreak of scientific revolution, the continuous interaction in culture and trade, spread of religions, and wars between the East and the West made the Mediterranean coast the central belt of cross-culture interactions, which induced the eventual occurrence of Renaissance, religious reforms and scientific revolution in Europe. These three cultural movements liberated the minds of the people, and jointly facilitated the rise of modern science. The subsequent industrial revolution, technology revolution and political revolution led to a total transformation of the western society, and the creation of industrial civilization. The spread of this civilization to other parts of the world initiated the modernization process of mankind.

Ancient China also developed very advanced science and technology. The representative works such as Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, Inner Canon of Huangdi, and Qi Min Yao Shu, all reflect unique Chinese contributions in ancient times to mathematics, astronomy, medicine, agriculture, etc. Ancient China was good at technology creations. It not only developed the Four Great Inventions that include papermaking, printing, gunpowder and the compass, but also invented technologies such as rice cultivation, silk production, porcelain-manufacturing and mechanical time-keeping. The Chinese iron and bronze metallurgy in ancient China reached the highest level in the world. Some world-renowned large engineering projects were done such as the Great Wall, the Dujiang Weir, and the Grand Canal. These achievements not only created advanced agricultural civilization in China, but also contributed greatly to the advancement of the world civilization.

Nevertheless, at the time when the scientific revolution and the industrial revolution were vigorously on the rise in the west, the Chinese feudal society remained in the enjoyment of the achievements of the agricultural civilization, where it was easy to see rigid thinking, the refusal to advance in culture, sticking to the old structure, mechanisms and rules, and the continuous practice of a closed-door policy. Due to the lack of innovation drive, vitality, openness and tolerance in the society, the whole Chinese society not only failed to make major inventions and creations, but was indifferent, even against the newly emerging industrial civilization, therefore failing time and again to grasp the opportunity of development brought about by the scientific and technological revolution. After the Opium War, China suffered even more from the humiliation of the western powers and was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. China did not start to abolish the imperial examination systems, and establish new schools and colleges until the early days of the 20th century. The eruption of the May 4th Movement calling holding high the banners of democracy, science, patriotism, and national salvation and the subsequent science enlightenment campaign in the country led to the creation of modern education, science and technology system in China. After the founding of the Peopleí»s Republic of China, we have established a complete system of modern education, science and technology in the country and have quickly shortened the gap with the world in science and technology. Now the role of science and technology as the first productivity has become more and more evident and science and technology has increasingly become the leading force in national prosperity, progress and national security.

History tells us that every major progress in human civilization is closely linked with scientific and technological breakthroughs. As the most dynamic and the most revolutionary element in human civilization, science and technology has helped deepen the rational cognition of man, expand their creativity, shape their scientific spirits, elevate the realm of their thoughts and promote the progress of civilization. Modern science and technology is exerting much deeper effect than ever before on national fate, the rise and fall of a nation and the future of mankind.

Looking forward to the future development of human civilization, a new kind of civilization is to be created by the human society based on the agricultural civilization and the industrial civilization. In the next forty years, about two to three billion people including the Chinese worldwide will advance into the ranking of modernization. The contradiction between the huge demand of the majority of the people on Earth in the pursuit of a modernized life and its limited resources and environmental carrying capacity has become increasingly severer, which determines that this modernization process could neither follow the traditional pathways of unrestrained consumption of natural resources, nor undertake the old way in which a handful of countries achieved development at the consumption of the resources of the majority of the countries in the world. Today the whole world faces a series of severe common challenges in areas such as resources and energy, financial security, network security, food security, human health, eco-environment, and global climate change. It is imperative to innovate our mode of development and to develop a development pathway that is scientific, innovative, green, harmonious and sustainable. A brand new form of human civilization, the knowledge-based civilization is around the corner.

In the era of knowledge-based civilization, innovation will become the major driving force for development. Since entering the 21st century, the rapid development of science and technology and globalization of economy have profoundly changed our mode of social economic development with science and technology affecting and penetrated into the various aspects of our economy and society, becoming the major driving force for economic growth and social progress, and a crucial factor on national competitiveness. The mode of economic development is shifting to be based on innovation from resource-dependent and investment-dependent ones and knowledge-based industry will become the predominant one in the society. Mankind must rely on science and technology innovation to tackle the various challenges we jointly face in resources and energy, eco-environment, human health, national and public security; must find a sustainable development pathway that is eco-environmental-friendly and featured with the harmonious co-existence between man and man and between man and nature.

In the era of knowledge-based civilization, knowledge will become the major factor in driving development. In different eras of civilization, there are differences in the terms of the main resources for development. In the era of agricultural civilization, the main resources were land, water, plants and animals, and climate conditions. In the era of industrial civilization, the main resources were fossil fuel, minerals, bio-mass and other production factors such as capital, workshops, and facilities. In the era of knowledge-based civilization, knowledge will become the predominant factor for economic development with knowledge-based innovation as the core factor and knowledge-based innovation and application as the main drivers for economic growth, social progress, and sustainable and all-round development of man. As a kind of new resource and in comparison with the traditional physical resources, knowledge enjoys the essential characteristics of mutual-sharing and mutual-benefits, and the unlimited appreciation of value and tends to overcome the inherent deficiencies of traditional physical resources such as exclusiveness and depletion. It can also guide the sustainable utilization of physical resources. Same knowledge resources can be used by different groups of people at the same time. The more and the wider a kind of knowledge is used, the more value it will have and the faster it will accumulate. Knowledge can provide inexhaustible resources for the sustainable progress of human society.

In the era of knowledge-based civilization, the major mode of production will be the natural integration of personalized manufacture and global-scale organization. As the most transformative productive force, science and technology will continuously create new production tools, expand the objects of labor, and enhance the capability of man, which will in turn lead to the shift of the mode of production. Technological revolution and industrial revolution have so far brought about great changes to the mode of production, having caused it to shift from mainly relying on individual labors and simple collective groups in the agricultural era to mainly relying on large-scale mass production in the industrial era with industrialization, standardization and systemization of production as its major characteristics. Since the 1990í»s, the wide application of information and network technologies have advanced the mass production toward the global manufacturing, flexible manufacturing, green manufacturing and network manufacturing. The rapid development of computing and network capacity and that of new knowledge-based service industry, cultural industry, and intelligent industry have provided extensive room of growth for personalized creation, making it possible to develop knowledge-based products at any time, at any place and at anybodyí»s will. A new mode of production will be resulted from the integration of the production chiefly based on human knowledge creation and the large scale production based on machines in the age of industrial civilization. The integration of various disciplines, the interaction between science and technology, the accelerated transfer of knowledge, technologies and talent as well as the breakthroughs in science and technology innovation and industrial revolution will lead to fundamental changes in the mode of production.

In the era of knowledge-based civilization, a harmonious society will be the major objective of social development. A society in this era should be a harmonious one featured with democracy, the rule of law, fairness and justice, honesty and friendliness, vitality, peace and order, as well as the harmony between man and nature. Human beings will continuously and jointly create and share knowledge resources, create the demand for new knowledge, and knowledge-based new techniques, services, industries and global market, further consolidating the material foundations for the construction of harmonious society. Science and technology innovation will constantly deepen our systematic cognition of nature and the development rule of human society, and provide scientific basis for the conscious and timely adjustment of the relationship between man and nature and the systematic understanding of the evolution rules of the complex social-economic system, thus enriching the knowledge basis for the construction of harmonious society. The wide dissemination of scientific knowledge, scientific and humanistic spirits, scientific thoughts and methodology will guide people to establish and develop outlook of science, value and development, and will effectively stimulate the consciousness, enthusiasm and interests for innovation of the whole society. It will also shape scientific and civilized mode of living, and enrich the cultural basis for the construction of harmonious society.

Respected Members and Comrades,

In the great historical process of our pursuing modernization, we are facing great adjustments and changes in the world political and economical pattern, the pressing strategic tasks to transform the mode of economic development, and severe challenges in energy resources, eco-environment, human health, global change, and traditional and non-traditional security. In the history of Chinese modern science and technology development, we have gone through the periods of introducing knowledge and technologies, and of keeping track for innovation, now being at the new starting point for indigenous innovation and making leap-forward development. Our generation of scientific and technological workers enjoys better opportunities, bigger platforms, and brighter prospects than our predecessors. Meanwhile, we also shoulder greater historical responsibilities to our younger generations. I wish and I am convinced that, when our great motherland has achieved basic modernization, when the Chinese nation has achieved its great rejuvenation and has made greater contributions to the knowledge-based civilization of the world, the Chinese scientific and technological community will surely be back on the peak of the world. By then, we proudly say that we have made due historical contributions with no regret to our nation and time in this great historical drive.

Let us closely unite under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China headed by President Hu Jintao and work hand in hand with strengthened enthusiasm and spirits to benefit the people, tackle various challenges, create the future and embrace the new era of human civilization with scientific knowledge.

Thank you.??

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