China's import of technology started in the 1950s and it can be divided into four stages. The first stage refers to the 1950s. Mainly, complete sets of equipment were imported from the former Soviet Union and other east European countries for the metallurgical, electric power generating, machine-building and aviation industries. The equipment was used to equip 156 principal projects undertaken at that time, and these projects laid the initial foundation for China's industrialization.
The second stage was the 1960s. When the Sino-USSR relations deteriorated, China mainly turned to Japan and the developed countries in West Europe to import technology and equipment. From 1966 to 1977, due to chaos of the "cultural revolution," the work of technology import was interrupted. The third stage was in 1978. That year, China imported sets of equipment for the chemical fiber and fertilizer production, metallurgical, machine-building, electric power generating and coal mining industries at a total cost of US$10 billion. Obviously, the scale of import exceeded the limit the national economy could stand, and this was considered a mistake in the technology import work. The fourth stage has lasted from December 1978 when the Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was convened until now.
Since the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee, great changes took place in China's technology import - shifting from the import of complete sets of large equipment to single-item technology, and in the import of technology shifting from mainly serving newly built enterprises to serving the technological upgrading of existent enterprises. China has also begun to adopt such practices as buying licenses to use certain technology, or requested the selling party to supply consultation and advanced manufacturing technology. Meanwhile, the central government has delegated more power of giving approval to technology import projects and contracts to the provincial, municipal and autonomous regional governments as well as the governments of the special economic zones and cities who have been allowed to draw up their own socioeconomic development plans. A system of two-level approval has been implemented in accordance with the amount of investment, and this has helped arouse the enthusiasm and initiative of all parties concerned. The fund for technology import has been pooled from various sources, including the foreign exchange reserves under the control of the central and local governments, that part of foreign exchange earnings kept by the foreign trade companies and enterprises. In addition, various types of foreign investments in China are also used to import technology, and this not only relieved the state of the burden regarding foreign exchange, but also secured a sustained expansion of technology import.
Technology import is an important component of China's open policy and it has played an important role in China's socialist modernization drive. It has promoted the technological development in enterprises and increased economic returns and enhanced social benefits. Through importing technology, a large number of technological and managerial was trained, which strengthened China's technology power, improved the level of China's technology and management. Technology import increased the competition power of Chinese export commodity, enhanced the foreign exchange receipt, accelerated the development of foreign trade.