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Professor XU Guanhua

68th Congregation (2010)

Professor XU Guanhua
Doctor of Science


“One can never know the true face of the mountain when one is within it,” observed a Song Dynasty poet who admired the beauty of Mountain Lu from different angles.  Those “within” are often hindered by their subjectivity from grasping the whole picture.  People, the world and nature are changing rapidly in the 21st century.  To understand our planet, we need the broadest of perspectives from afar.  Satellites patrolling in outer space play the role of collecting information about the Earth environment from a vantage point.  On the hills of the Chinese University, the most important remote-sensing facility in South China receives data day and night from a satellite in order that we can monitor global environmental changes.  This facility is the Satellite Remote Sensing Receiving Station of the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science (ISEIS) of the Chinese University.  And it owes its establishment to a visionary scientist sitting among us today.

Professor Xu is an expert in remote sensing application science and geoinformation systems, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a former Minister of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China (from 2001–2007).  He currently holds the position of Wei Lun Research Professor of Space and Earth Sciences at the Institute of Space and Earth Information Science (ISEIS) at CUHK.  Professor Xu graduated from the Department of Forestry of Beijing Forestry University in 1963, undertook advanced studies in remote sensing science at Sweden’s Stockholm University from 1979 to 1981, served as Director of the Research Institute of Forest Resource Information Techniques at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, Director of the Institute of Remote Sensing Applications at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Deputy Director of the State Science and Technology Commission, Vice Minister and Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the PRC.  Professor Xu is currently a member of the 11th National Committees of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Chairman of the Committee of Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports, member of the National Education Consulting Committee and Chairman of the Academic Committee of the State Key Laboratory of Remote Sensing Science.

The Committee of Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports of the National Committee of CPPCC is extremely well known throughout China and is brimming with experts, leading figures, and renowned individuals.  In the capacity of Committee Chairman, Professor Xu actively pushes for invigoration of the country through science and education, improves people’s welfare, and promotes work aimed at realizing a harmonious society.  Following the massive Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, a large number of Committee members from science and technology, cultural, medical, sanitation, and sporting circles became involved in earthquake recovery, disaster relief and post-disaster rebuilding work.  They ventured deep into the earthquake zone to pitch in and lend a hand, participated in actual earthquake recovery and disaster-relief work, and gained a full appreciation of the widespread, profound compassion  shown by the whole community.  Faced with the mysteries of outer space, man will unexpectedly produce distant, wild and fanciful thoughts.  Professor Xu is an expert in outer space whose scope of research naturally extends to the mysteries of the deepest reaches of the universe.  However, he is also concerned about the future of the Earth and humanity and cares about people’s suffering.  Viewed solely from this perspective, Professor Xu’s specialist field touches on an extremely wide range of issues and is one that concerns the brotherhood among all living things and the connection between man and the universe.

Professor Xu has led national high and new technology undertakings with distinction and has overseen many important national and international collaborative research projects, receiving many scientific and technological progress awards from the national and provincial governments.  He successfully researched and developed the first domestic digital image processing system used for resource mapping in remote sensing satellites.  Professor Xu is credited with a series of innovations in the theory and methodology of integrated remote sensing and serial mapping, and has organized large-scale forest protection integrated remote sensing systems for northeastern, northern and northwestern China.  His mapping results both confirm the great significance of the Three-North Shelterbelt in enhancing the local ecological environment and provide systematic scientific data on ecological construction and afforestation plans in the region.  During his term as Minister of Science and Technology, Professor Xu strove to promote the liberalization of science and technology policy with a special emphasis on nurturing, attracting and exchanging talented personnel.  Through his active promotional work, top overseas talent has developed and grown in China, and top domestic talent has broken new ground in new environments.  Between 2003 and 2005 in particular, when Professor Xu served as head of the Leading Group Office that formulated the National Outline for Medium and Long Term Scientific and Technological Development (2006–2020), he worked tirelessly and contributed to the formulation of directions and guidance on the future development of science and technology in China, developmental goals, key areas of development, and corresponding policy.  Since stepping down from his post as Minister of Science and Technology in 2007, Professor Xu has devoted most of his attention to global change research work, and through his wide influence has led the drafting of Report on China’s strategies for Global Change, on the basis of which the Ministry of Science and Technology has drafted and initiated its Global Climate Change Major Research Plan.  Since then, global climate change research has received long-term, stable, and major funding support as it is an important element of basic research.  Professor Xu has an exalted status within scientific circles and is an academician of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, a foreign academician of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and an academician of the International Academy of Astronautics.  He has been honored to receive the Gold Medal for Science and Culture awarded by the President of the Italian Republic.  Professor Xu was made Doctor of Technology, honoris causa, by the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; Doctor of Science, honoris causa, by the City University of Hong Kong; and Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa, by the University of Maryland in the USA.

Professor Xu has an extremely close relationship with CUHK.  In 1999, he was appointed special adviser to the CUHK ISEIS and also visited CUHK.  In October 2005 he officiated at the inauguration ceremony for the first phase of the CUHK Satellite Remote Sensing Receiving Station, and as honorary professor of the CUHK Faculty of Engineering, delivered a distinguished lecture entitled “The Future of Science and Technology Development in China and the Role of Hong Kong”.  Professor Xu was visiting scholar at the ISEIS from January to May 2008 and he delivered a lecture entitled “China’s Agenda on Global Change Research”.  In May 2008, Professor Xu was appointed Wei Lun Research Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, ISEIS, in which position he lectures on Chinese environmental issues, Chinese research on global change, Earth survey research in China, the establishment of a platform for China’s public use of resources and technological conditions, and major international research collaborative projects in which China participates.  Professor Xu’s association with CUHK has helped promote all areas of work at the ISEIS such as research, teacher training, and technological development, has further enhanced CUHK’s leading role in remote sensing technology, and has made an outstanding contribution to CUHK.

Professor Xu has a record of outstanding achievement in the academic sphere, has made outstanding contributions to Chinese technological development, improving people’s lives, and protection of the Earth’s environment, has for many years maintained a close relationship with CUHK, and has exerted a great deal of effort to improve CUHK’s status in science and technology circles.  For these reasons it is my privilege, Mr Chairman, to present to you Professor Xu Guanhua for the award of the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.