President Xi Jinping presented China's top science award to Huang Xuhua and Zeng Qingcun on Friday for their outstanding contributions to scientific and technological innovation.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, granted award medals and certificates to them at an annual ceremony held in Beijing to honor distinguished scientists, engineers and research achievements.
Xi shook hands with them and expressed congratulations.
Other leaders, including Li Keqiang, Wang Huning and Han Zheng, were also present.
Huang Xuhua, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, is the chief designer of the country's first-generation nuclear submarines.
Born in Guangdong Province in 1926, Huang later joined a research institute of the former China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation and has been engaged in the research and development of nuclear submarines for about 30 years. He won the Medal of the Republic in 2019 for his outstanding contributions to the nation.
"Nuclear submarines are a lifetime aspiration for me, and I have no regrets," Huang said.
Zeng Qingcun, 85, is a famous meteorologist from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
His theory of numerical weather prediction solved the problems of timeliness and stability in calculating multi-scale weather change processes and is the basis of the global numerical weather prediction technology.
Zeng learned to do farm work and was aware of the difficulty in weather prediction when he was young. In college years, he was impressed by a severe frost that froze 40 percent of the wheat in central China's Henan Province. "If we can predict the weather in advance and take precautions, we can certainly reduce losses," he recalled.
Zeng's visionary study on global climate change has brought him a host of accolades and international acclaim, including the world's top prize for meteorological work.
Friday's ceremony also honored 296 projects, with 46 winning the State Natural Science Award, 65 the State Technological Invention Award, and 185 the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award.
Ten foreign experts won the International Science and Technology Cooperation Award.
On behalf of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, Premier Li Keqiang extended congratulations to award winners and thanked foreign experts for their support of China's science and technology development.
Li, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, said that since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the country has made brilliant achievements in scientific and technological development, with the past year witnessing a number of internationally leading advances.
Li noted that China is striving to achieve the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects in 2020.
The premier stressed the importance of following the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, further implementing the innovation-driven development strategy and accelerating the in-depth integration of science and technology with the economy, in a bid to maintain the economic growth within a reasonable range and promote the high-quality development.
He called for the strengthening of basic research as the foundation of sci-tech innovation.
"We will increase financial support and guide social forces including enterprises to increase investment," Li said, adding that the mechanisms for ensuring funds, evaluating achievements and rewarding talent shall all be optimized.
China will support researchers in concentrating on their work without distractions and create more original achievements by respecting rules and tolerating failures, Li said.
Those who dedicated themselves to the scientific work despite decades of obscurity shall be commended and awarded, he said.
The premier also stressed that sci-tech innovation shall address the urgent needs of economic development and people's livelihood.
China will accelerate the development of key technologies and transforming research achievements to products to help speed up industrial upgrading, he said.
Research and development shall be intensified in major disease prevention and control as well as environmental management so that more people will directly benefit from technology and innovation, he said.
The premier emphasized the role of enterprises in technological innovation and called for efforts to improve their ability and willingness to invest more in innovation by implementing tax and fee deduction policies as well as respecting and protecting their intellectual property rights.
To expand international cooperation in innovation, Li pledged to facilitate scientists and technicians as well as enterprises from various countries to come to China for exchanges and development.
Vice Premier Han Zheng, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, presided over the ceremony, with about 3,300 people attending.
Before the ceremony, Xi and other leaders met representatives of the award winners.
This year's ceremony highlighted major breakthroughs in basic research. Chemist Zhou Qilin, 63, and his team won the first-place prize of the State Natural Science Award for inventing a highly effective catalyst that has been widely used by giant pharmaceutical companies in drug production.
Other research programs that were presented with the State Natural Science Award included studies on topological quantum materials, iron-based superconductors as well as the controllable growth and performance regulation of graphene.
"Many perplexing problems look like technological ones. In fact, they are not backed by solid basic research. With no clear understanding of basic science problems, you cannot get original results," said Zhou.
A batch of key technologies for industrial applications, such as the jetliner ARJ21 project, were also honored.
Developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, the ARJ21 is China's first domestically developed turbo-fan regional passenger jetliner.
Other awarded technologies applied in industries and large engineering projects included those for building large-scale tunnels and ensuring highway safety in geographically complicated and dangerous mountain areas, as well as for the automatic transmission hybrid power system for commercial vehicles.
Awards were also given to animal studies, medical breakthroughs and agricultural technologies.
Wei Fuwen, a CAS academician, and his colleagues won the second-place prize of the State Natural Science Award, for their research on giant pandas.
They focused on the evolution of the ancient species and contributed to endangered species conservation.
The team led by Sun Lingyun, a doctor at Nanjing Drum Tower Hospital in east China, won the State Technological Invention Award, for developing a stem cell treatment for lupus erythematosus.
Other award winners related to diseases included studies on cross-species infection of the animal influenza virus in humans as well as the new pathogenesis and treatment of depression.
Research programs associated with safe food and stable grain output, such as technologies for accurately detecting pollutants in agricultural products and cultivating new high-yield wheat varieties, also received awards.
Since the 18th CPC national congress in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core has decided to take an innovation-driven development strategy, underscoring that scientific and technological innovation provides strategic support for increasing production and boosting overall national strength.
As Xi has reiterated, innovation is the primary driving force for development.
During the past few years, he has made a number of visits to scientific research institutes, universities, high-tech enterprises as well as high-tech industrial development zones, where innovation elements are the most active.
China has spared no efforts in building a domestic innovation environment with systematic resolve.
In May 2016, China published a guideline on a national strategy that maps out three major steps to promote the country's innovation-driven development.
It pledged to build China into an innovative nation by 2020, an international leader in innovation by 2030, and a world powerhouse of sci-tech innovation by 2050.
China's expenditure on research and development (R&D) has seen double-digit growth for three consecutive years, and since 2013, the country has remained in the second place in terms of R&D spending worldwide, according to data given by the National Bureau of Statistics in August.
China's spending on R&D hit a record high at 2.19 percent of its GDP in 2018, up 0.04 percentage points compared with 2017.
Meanwhile, China has been improving the incentive mechanism and policy environment, issuing a series of reform documents concerning the promotion of sci-tech development, transformation of sci-tech achievements as well as the national science award system.
From 2000 to 2018, China awarded 636 projects the State Natural Science Award, 946 projects the State Technological Invention Award and 4,246 projects the State Scientific and Technological Progress Award. The awarded projects included high-temperature superconducting materials, the manned space program, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, supercomputers and hybrid rice.