BEIJING, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Two Chinese scientists, physical chemist Zhang Cunhao and nuclear weapons expert Cheng Kaijia, won China's top science award on Friday for their outstanding contribution to scientific and technological innovation.
The pair, both academics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, were presented with certificates by Chinese President Xi Jinping at an annual ceremony held to honor distinguished scientists and research achievements.
Winners are each entitled to an award of 5 million yuan (826,276 U.S. dollars).
Addressing the ceremony, Premier Li Keqiang said, "China has entered a new stage in which the country must rely more on sci-tech innovation to guide and support its economic development and social progress."
Its traditional growth mode which was mainly driven by factor input is difficult to sustain and it is gradually losing its previous competitive edge in medium and low-end products, according to Li.
"Our country's economy is shifting from high-speed growth to the phase of medium to high-speed growth," he said.
The premier said China must rely on scientific and technological innovation to improve the overall quality of its economy, move upward in the industrial value chain, foster a new competitive edge, overcome restraints in resources and the environment, and achieve more sustainable development.
The country needs breakthroughs in frontier science and technology as well as in strategic sectors which are vital to the national economy and people's livelihood, he said.
The government should free innovative scientific activities from administrative intervention and "let the market speak" in terms of research orientation, resource allocation and use of funds, he urged.
It should also create an environment that promotes fair play and encourages creativity and initiative among scientists and researchers, Li said, while encouraging the young to follow the example set by outstanding scientists and contribute their wisdom to the country and the people.
Awards were also given to a number of other scientists, as well as scientific research programs, at the ceremony.
Chinese leaders Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli were also present at the event.