Deng Xiaoping

Priority Should Be Given to Scientific Research


Spoken: September 26, 1975
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


I said at a meeting held in Dazhai that a failing agriculture would be an obstruction to industrial development. Unless priority is given to scientific research, the economic development of the country will be hindered. Scientific research is of great importance, so we should discuss it.

At present, the ranks of scientific researchers have been greatly reduced, and there is an age gap in our scientific and technical ranks. We need mature workers doing scientific research, and we need young people as well, who have sharp retention and are quick-witted. Most students are in their 20s when they graduate from colleges and universities. Ten years later, in their 30s, they are at the age during which they should attain academic achievements. Presently, some scientific research personnel are involved in factional struggles and pay little or no attention to research. A few of them are engaged in research privately, as if they were committing crimes. Chen Jingrun is one of them. Shouldn’t these people, who have achieved academic results, also be judged as politically sound? It would be advantageous for China to have one thousand such talented people whose authority is generally recognized by the world. But in China, they have been criticized for devoting themselves to scientific research alone. As long as they are working in the interest of the People’s Republic of China, these people are much more valuable than those who are engaged in factionalism and thereby obstruct others from working. At this time, many people are afraid to talk about political soundness and professional competence; actually they dare not talk about professional competence. The Central Committee commends these competent professionals and they deserve our support and commendation.

There is an elderly scientist who specializes in semiconductor research. The authorities of Beijing University asked him to teach other courses, which he couldn’t do well. But the academic lecture he delivered at the invitation of the Institute of Semiconductors of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was well received. He said that he used his spare time to do semiconductor research. There are many people like him who are engaged in a profession unrelated to what they studied. We should be giving full play to their professional knowledge lest the country suffer a great loss. Although this elderly scientist is an academician and well known throughout the country, he has to engage in a profession unrelated to what he studied. Why so? If Beijing University could not use him, he could be transferred to the Institute of Semiconductors and serve as its head, and we could provide him with a Party secretary and personnel in charge of support services.

Scientific research personnel are truly eager to conduct research. Factionalists are only the minority. We believe the current state of affairs in scientific research can be reversed.

Whether we can do a good job in scientific research depends, in the final analysis, on our leadership. If the leadership does not perform well, who will be able to implement policies? We should pay special attention to promoting competent individuals to leading positions. What reason is there for allowing people to remain in positions of leadership who have little professional knowledge or enthusiasm and show a factional bias? Why can’t those scientific research personnel of higher academic levels and professional knowledge be the heads of research institutes? We mainly depend on people in their 40s to do this work. Competent people can take charge of Party work or support services. Support services are quite important to scientific research in creating favourable conditions for the latter, in maintaining machines and instruments, and in preserving data. People without devotion to duty or without scientific knowledge cannot do this work well. This is the political aspect of scientific research work, which consists of Party work, scientific research, and support services. Without support services, we cannot do research work well. Scientific research personnel should not be asked to take charge of support services. We should place those with a strong Party spirit and good organizational capabilities in charge of support services.

We should put on file our fine and promising scientific and technological personnel. We should help them, regardless of seniority, to improve their working and living conditions. When I visited the Soviet Union in 1957, Yudin told me that his country’s atomic bombs were developed by three young researchers in their 30s and 40s. Don’t we have such talented people in China? In short, we should assist and support promising scientific and technological personnel including eccentric individuals by creating favourable conditions for them. First of all, we should provide them with housing, and we should also help those who have difficulties.

Education departments are required to provide successors in the field of scientific research. What role should colleges and universities play? What kind of personnel should they train? Some universities have only an academic level of secondary technical schools, so why should we run them as if they were universities? The Chinese Academy of Sciences should run the Chinese University of Science and Technology well. They should enrol senior middle school graduates with good academic records in mathematics, physics and chemistry and no special treatment should be given to cadres’ children. If this is wrong, I will be the first to make self-criticism. This is not the restoration of the old ways. If a person knows nothing about foreign languages, mathematics, physics, or chemistry, how can he scale heights in science and technology? Critical challenges will occur in education, which could be an obstacle to the drive for modernization. For example, we must rely on education if we want to raise the degree of automation in factories and have more scientific and technological personnel. Developed countries, no matter what their social systems are, have increased the degree of automation and decreased the amount of manual labour through education. Shouldn’t we classify scientific and technological personnel as labourers? Since science and technology are a productive force, the scientific and technological personnel should unquestionably be considered as labourers.

Teachers should be given their due status in society. There are several million teachers in China. If they are constantly being criticized, how can their enthusiasm be aroused? Chairman Mao once said, we should change negative elements into positive ones. Therefore, we need to arouse the enthusiasm of those working on the educational front.

(Remarks made when hearing the outline of a report entitled “Several Problems Concerning Scientific and Technological Work”, presented by leading comrades of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.)