The Chinese Academy of Sciences remains the most prestigious research agency in the natural sciences. It administered about 120 research institutes in various parts of China, with major concentrations in Beijing and Shanghai. It also operates the elite Chinese University of Science and Technology, located in Hefei, Anhui Province, as well as its own printing plant and scientific instrument factory. Its institutes concentrated on basic research in many fields and did research (such as that on superconductor materials) that met international standards. The Chinese Academy of Sciences institutes employs China's best-qualified civilian scientists and had better laboratories, equipment, and libraries than institutes in the other four research systems. The academy's concentration on basic research was intended to be complemented by the work of the more numerous institutes affiliated with industrial ministries or local governments, which focused on applied research.
Although nominally subordinate to the State Science and Technology Commission, the Chinese Academy of Sciences in practice reported directly to the State Council. Before 1956 the academy was directly responsible for overall science planning, and retains a fairly high degree of institutional autonomy and influence on national science policy. The academy provides expert advice, when asked, to the State Council and its ministries, commissions, and agencies. Its specialized research institutes also did work for the military research and development program. Additionally, it has responsibility for multidisciplinary research, monitoring the level of technology in Chinese industries and suggesting areas where foreign technology should be purchased. During the 1980s the academy repeatedly was asked to pay more attention to the needs of production and the application of knowledge.
The membership of the Chinese Academy of Sciences includes the nation's most senior and best-known scientists, some of whom have long-standing personal ties with senior political leaders. Such ties and the prestige of the academy helped it win favorable treatment in the state budgetary process and operate with relatively little outside interference. Its relatively privileged position has generated resentment among those working in less well-funded institutes under the industrial ministries, whose workers-- as well as some planners in the state administration--reportedly considered the academy both overfunded and overstaffed with theoreticians who contributed little to the national economy.
The applied research and development work of the Academy involves information, integration of optics, mechanics and electronics, materials, energy resources, biotechnology, chemical engineering, space technology and remote sensing technology. Such work has made contributions to the research and development of computers, atomic energy, lasers, "two bombs" (atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb) and "one star" (satellite).
The China Academy of Sciences (CAS) apparently plays a minor role in the national space program. While its institutes contribute some components, instrumentation, and scientific experiments, the academy is rarely mentioned in reports and documents on space activities. The Academy has contributed to the development of the scientific satellites (SJ) and application satellites (DFH, FY, FSW, CBERS, etc). It has several research centers at its disposal, including: