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China Elevates Scientists to Party Posts

Prominent scientists and engineers are increasingly visible in the new leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, which is also better educated than its predecessor.

Five members and alternates of the central committee elected last week during the 15th Party Congress are members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS): Song Jian, minister of the State Science and Technology Commission; Lu Yongxiang, newly appointed CAS president; Zhou Guangzhao, Lu's predecessor and now president of the China Association for Science and Technology; Chen Jia'er, president of Beijing University; and CAS physicist Zhao Zhongxian. Only Song and Zhou served on the previous central committee. Another new member, Xu Kuangdi, the mayor of Shanghai, is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Overall, some 92% of the committee's 193 members and 151 alternates hold college degrees, up from 83% of the group selected 5 years ago.

Observers say it is too soon to tell whether the increased scientific presence on the central committee will translate into specific R&D initiatives. But they see it as consistent with party chief Jiang Zemin's call to "develop the country by relying on science and education."