Neurologist Wang Zhongcheng and chemist Xu Guangxian were presented with the country's top award for scientific and technological innovation on Friday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. They will each receive 5 million yuan ($730,000).
President Hu Jintao presented the scientists with their certificates. Premier Wen Jiabao made a keynote speech at the event.
Known as one of the founders of neurosurgery in China, Wang, 83, is the only neurosurgeon member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Since 1949, he and his students have spearheaded the development of neurosurgery, and his achievements are acknowledged around the world.
"It has been my great pleasure to realize my scientific goals while serving the people and the country," Wang said at the award ceremony.
Xu, 89, is a leading scientist in rare earth chemistry at Peking University. His technological innovations have helped China take full advantage of its rich resources, and the country is now the world's top exporter of rare earth products.
Xu, who has 57 years' experience in his field, said he is delighted to see such an abundance of young talent following in his footsteps.
"They represent our country's future," he said.
Both men said they plan to use their awards to help fund further research and training.
As well as the two scientists, several outstanding research and development projects were recognized at the awards ceremony.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a nuclear fusion reactor and 25 other scientific projects each received a State Special Award for Scientific and Technological Progress.
American agricultural economist Scott Douglas Rozelle, Australian ecologist Victor Squires, and German scientist Lothar Reh were presented with Awards for International Cooperation in Science & Technology.
Xu Tao, director of the Institute of Microbiology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who returned to China in 2000 after completing doctorate and post-doctorate studies in Germany and the United States, was also among the prizewinners.
Today's scientists are living in the best times for research and development, he said in reference to the current high levels of government funding.
"I made the right decision to return to China," he said.
According to the government's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), spending on research and development in 2010 will be equivalent to 2 percent of GDP.
The State Scientific and Technological Awards were established in 2000.
Since then, 12 scientists have scooped the top prize, including atmospheric physicist Ye Duzheng, liver and gall specialist Wu Mengchao, hybrid rice developer Yuan Longping, mathematician Wu Wenjun, IT expert Wang Xuan and wheat breeding expert Li Zhensheng.