Second SftP China Trip: Itinerary Report

This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email

Second SftP China Trip: Itinerary Report

by the SftP China Delegation

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 10, No. 5, September/October 1978, 37–39

The photographs accompanying this report are by Nancy Edwards, an SftP member who was part of the delegation. We are looking forward to publishing more photographs from the trip to accompany more detailed articles in subsequent issues of SftP.

Hong Kong, July 2, 1978: We have just left the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) after a one-month visit. Our itinerary took us from Hainan Island in the south of China to Peking in the north – with many stops scattered in between. Although the main focus of the trip was to study the current organization and objectives of agricultural (especially food) production and its related scientific and decision-making processes, we were able to examine industrial developments in both the countryside and the cities as well. At the same time, we collected a small mountain of impressions of what it might be like to live in the PRC. We would like to share our information and impressions with others – therefore, we are preparing articles, a book, and slide shows for circulation. 

The twelve members of our group met together for the first time in Hong Kong on May 30 to begin four days of intensive meetings before entering China on June 4. During these meetings we came to the realization that several significant modifications to the itinerary we had submitted to the Chinese were desirable if we were to achieve our goal of studying how science and technology are organized in China to meet people’s needs. We also spend much time compiling detailed lists of questions to be asked in various situations such as communes, state farms, industries, research institutes, universities and food outlets. 

June 4th, the big day!! We took the Kowloon train from Hong Kong to China’s border where we walked a few hundred meters across the bridge into Shumchun. Here we were greeted by Comrade Wu, who five years ago had met the first SftP delegation. We were treated to our first of many delicious meals before learning that we were to be given the opportunity to be one of the first western delegations to visit Hainan Island – one of the places we had requested on our new itinerary. Our host, the Scientific and Technical Association (STA), had received special permission for us to visit this agriculturally important tropical island in the South China Sea. This was the first demonstration of the extraordinary attention the Chinese gave to our itinerary requests. 

We then boarded another train for Kwangchou (Canton) and after a short ride were met at the railroad station by our Kwangchou hosts, including representatives from the local ST A and leading members from the institutions and organizations in Kwangtung Province that we were to visit during our stay in that area. Similar warm greetings and receptions were to be repeated whenever we arrived at a new locale. That afternoon and evening we did some sight-seeing and attended a musical event in Kwangchou. 

The next morning we flew to Haikou, the capital and administrative seat for Hainan Island. The five days we spent on this island were very intensive. We visited handicraft factories, a state-owned farm for educated youth, Hainan’s South China Academy and Institute of Tropical Plants, a latex processing factory, and production brigades of two ethnic minorities, Li and Miao. Some of the crops we saw were cocoa, coffee, latex (rubber), oil palm, pineapple, tea, and pepper. We also visited a state farm for returned overseas Chinese (Chinese living in other countries who retain their Chinese citizenship). Both at the state farm and later in Haikou we were introduced to groups of Chinese returning from VietNam. 

We flew back to Kwangchou on June 9. After visiting Chungshan University and the No. 7 Middle School, we proceeded on to the city of Changsha in Hunan Province. Here we split up into two subgroups for the first of four times. One subgroup visited Chuchou, a small industrial city south ofChangsha, that had its origins in the Great Leap Forward (1958-9). The other subgroup went to nearby Taoyuan County for our first exposure to the enormous task of agricultural construction in China. 

During the remaining half of our trip, our journey continued through Shanghai, Soochow, Tsinan, Shantung Province, Peking, and Hobei Province. We saw food and grain processing plants, fertilizer plants, textile mills, tractor factories, a railroad freight car factory, agricultural academies, the four-level agroscience network in Wu County, the Shengli oil fields, a worker-peasant village, a variety of production brigades, land reclamation projects, water conservancy projects, and more. In Peking we spent some time sightseeing (Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City) as well as visiting the Institute of Zoology and the National Agricultural Exhibition. Before leaving Peking we were treated to the last of many official banquets given in our honor. This one was hosted by Chou Pei-yuan the acting director of the STA and president of Peking University. 

Throughout our trip we had the opportunity to talk with both workers and administrators, including many involved in research coordination and planning at provincial and national levels. 

On July l we flew back to Kwangchou where some of the delegation continued conversations with research workers that had begun a month earlier, while others of the delegation spent some time wandering around the city before boarding the train back to Shunchun and Kowloon on July 2.

We are now planning and developing our outreach work and attending to the seemingly countless details related to it. Included among our projects are several articles for future issues of SftP. We realize that a month’s time is inadequate to gain a thorough understanding of science and technology under socialism in China, but we feel that we have learned a great deal and wish to communicate our findings as broadly as possible.

>> Back to Vol. 10, No. 5 <<