The four great inventions of ancient China – the compass, gunpowder, paper-making and printing – pushed forward Chinese civilization and made historic contributions to the wider world. But for modern Chinese, there has been little to be proud of over the past 100 years as the nation lagged behind other nations in innovation and invention.

Last week the prestigious list was brought into the modern era when more than 50,000 Internet users voted for the "Four Great Inventions of Modern China".

After some 100,000 netizens took part in the discussion and 51,442 valid votes were cast, the selections were: hybrid rice, laser typesetting for Chinese characters, synthesis of bovine insulin and the discovery of artemether, an anti-malarial drug made from the Chinese herb qinghao.

The vote was jointly organized by the Guangdong Association of Invention (GAI), the Nanfang Daily, the Beijing News and Internet portal sohu.com.

Originality, global influence and social benefits were the three key criteria, said Zhou Zhaolong, vice-director of GAI.

"We are serious in the voting. It is time for us to shift the focus of our science education from what we achieved in the past to what we are doing at present," said Wang Yusheng, former director of the Chinese Museum of Science and Technology.

Wang, together with 20 other scientists and educators, prepared a list of more than 100 candidate inventions.

Hybrid rice, developed by the famous agronomist Yuan Longping in the early 1970s, is widely grown in China, with yields up to 12,000 kilograms per hectare. It has helped alleviate food scarcity in China and several other Asian countries.

The computerized laser system for Chinese character typesetting has transformed China’s printing from letterpress to electronic publishing.

Invented by the late Peking University Professor Wang Xuan in the 1980s, the laser system has been described as the second invention of Chinese printing after Bi Sheng’s development of movable clay type in the Northern Song Dynasty (AD 960-1127). Bi Sheng’s invention ushered in a revolution in the history of printing.

The complete synthesis of bovine insulin the first time that human beings have synthesized the protein was a breakthrough in life sciences. The procedure was carried out in 1966 by a team headed by late academician Wang Yinglai.

Compound artemether is a medicine invented in the late 1970s, which has proven effective in treating malaria worldwide. By the end of 2005 it was the most important medicine used to fight malaria in 26 Asian and African countries.

Via China Daily