BEIJING--The Chinese government has established a new Ministry of Science and Technology and promoted a polymer chemist, Zhu Lilan, to head it. Zhu, 59, is one of only two women in the group of 29 ministers approved last week by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body.
The science ministry was created as part of a government-wide reorganization that axed or merged 11 of the 40 ministries and commissions that make up the State Council, which serves as a Cabinet led by the newly elected Premier Zhu Rongji. Since 1986, Zhu Lilan had been vice minister of the State Science and Technology Commission, which forms the basis of the new ministry.
"She is outstanding in both scientific research and management," says chemist Qian Wenyuan, her mentor and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). "She can understand and communicate with scientists easily, and she is someone who puts a premium on high speed and efficiency." Her organizational talent, he adds, led him to recommend her as his successor as director of the CAS Institute of Chemistry when he retired in the early 1980s.
Details are scarce on the role of the new ministry and its relationship to other scientific departments and academic institutions, but it is widely expected that it will set policy and coordinate budgets for the whole of science and technology. A report to the Congress by Li Peng, former premier and now chair of the legislature, suggests that its main missions will be to advance technology; promote the commercialization of research achievements, with an emphasis on information technology; enhance collaboration among government institutions, universities, and companies; and foster basic research in strategic fields.