China Table of Contents
Since the 1950s much of China's research and development effort has been channeled into military work. Military research facilities and factories are reported to have China's best-trained personnel, highest level of technology, and first priority for funding. Although the military sector has been shrouded in secrecy, its work evidently has resulted in the largely independent development of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons, intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and the successful launch and recovery of communications and reconnaissance satellites. Little information on the military research sector has been made public, and secrecy has been reinforced by isolation of many military research centers in the remote deserts and mountains of China's western regions. The overall level of China's military technology is not high by international standards, and the achievements in nuclear weapons and missiles have apparently resulted from projects featuring concentrated resources, effective coordination of distinct specialties and industries, and firm leadership directed at the achievement of a single, well-defined goal. The style recalls the 1940s Manhattan Project in the United States, and the accomplishments demonstrate the effectiveness of the Soviet-style "big push" mode of organizing research and development.
The military sector has developed in comparative isolation from the civilian economy, and until the 1980s its higher level of skills made little contribution to the national economy. Throughout the 1980s efforts have been made to break down some of the administrative barriers separating the military and civilian research and development systems. The military sector has been relatively privileged, and the spirit of self-reliance has been strong. Nevertheless, the rapid development of electronics and computer applications in the 1970s and 1980s rendered much of China's military industry obsolete. Consequently, pressure for more contact between the military research units and civilian institutes (which, with foreign contact and up-to-date foreign technology, may surpass the technical level of the military institutes) may be generated.
In 1987 the work of the military research institutes continued to be directed by the State Council's National Defense Science, Technology, and Industry Commission (NDSTIC). The NDSTIC was created in 1982 with the merger of the National Defense Science and Technology Commission, National Defense Industries Office, and Office of the Science, Technology, and Armament Commission of the party Central Military Commission. The NDSTIC functioned in a manner similar to the State Science and Technology Commission, concentrating on high-level planning and coordination across the vertical chains of command in which military research institutes and factories are organized.
Data as of July 1987