The Cultural Revolution left Chinese science in such chaos that not a single graduate student studied science in a Chinese university during the 10 years ended in 1976.
That was the message given by Chinese Vice Premier Fang Yi to 12 board members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) who just returned from a three-week visit to the People's Republic of China, during which they agreed to exchange lecturers and hold joint meetings on science.
"the result [of the Cultural Revolution] is that there is no achievement in science in the generation represented by the 27-to-37-year age bracket," Dr. Philip H. Abelson, editor of Science magazine, said yesterday at a news conference. "this means there is a catastrophic situation in China in science and technology."
Another result is that most of the 500 science students who will come to United States graduate schools to study next year, Dr. Abelson said, will be in their mid-40s. These students will form the core of the cadre that China hopes will regain for them an eminence they lost in the Cultural Revolution.
"these are the best teachers they have," said William D. Carey, executive director of the AAAS and another of the 12 board members who made the trip to China. "but even though they are the best teachers, they are badly in need of upgrading."
Abelson, Carey and AAAS Chairman Emilio Q. Daddario told reporters that Chinese students of science are also suffering from a serious language barrier and from 10 years of neglect of university libraries.
"their scientific publications are badly out of date," Carey said, "and when you picked one off a library shelf you'd blow the dust off and discover the library card hasn't been checked out, partly because of the language barrier."
"the teaching and use of foreign languages," Abelson said, "was discouraged during the Cultural Revolution."
Vice Premier Fang told the AAAS delegation that it is his hope to increase the university student population from the 900,000 it is today to 3 million over the next few years. Fang said it is China's hope to create four kinds of science "instead of the four kinds of talk" so prevalent during the Cultural Revolution.
What four kinds of talk?
"empty talk, bragging, nonsense and deception," Fang said.
If tripling the university population in a short time seems like an impossible task, Carey pointed out that a year ago China ordered one of its factories to build the first Chinese computer and it did. "you know what that factory made before?" Carey said. "door handles."