• Cults prompt China to boost science literacy

    Jia Hepeng

The China Association for Science and Technology — the country’s main body responsible for raising public awareness of science — has launched a nationwide campaign to spread basic scientific knowledge among its 1.3 billion people.

The move partly reflects a desire to counter the ‘pseudoscientific’ information propagated by popular cults. It comes shortly after the publication of a survey carried out by the association that revealed a high level of scientific illiteracy in China (see Chinese science literacy low but rising).

The new campaign will focus on community-based scientific exhibitions, and on setting up courses to provide basic scientific information to Chinese citizens. According to a spokesman for the organisation, efforts will be made to increase the general level of scientific knowledge among government officials.

The government’s desire to combat the low level of scientific literacy has been heightened by its fight against the Falungong movement which, the government says, communicates a large amount of ‘unscientific’ knowledge among more than two million followers.

The association has proposed that every province and city in China should build a science museum, and has offered to help universities and research institutes hold public meetings as part of its efforts to spread scientific knowledge.

One month ago, the association and the publicity department of China's ruling Communist Party jointly launched a science popularisation movement among the country’s vast rural areas, using a motorcade carrying scientific exhibitions and science communicators that will travel to eight Chinese provinces.