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Beijing sets sights on science
Last Updated: 2021-01-26 07:31 | China Daily
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China is emerging as an international center for education and research, with Beijing set to become one of the world's leading hubs for frontier scientific research by 2035, officials and experts said.

The capital will devote more planning and resources to cutting-edge fields including quantum information technology, artificial intelligence, health sciences and integrated circuit manufacturing, Chen Jining, mayor of Beijing, said in a government report on Saturday.

This year, the capital plans to build 6,000 more 5G stations, a trusted digital infrastructure network based on blockchain technology and new service platforms for artificial intelligence, he added.

Beijing will also step up efforts to attract quality talent from around the globe, and create international-style communities, schools and hospitals to foster a more welcoming academic and living environment for foreign talent, Chen said.

Li Meng, vice-minister of science and technology, told a news briefing last week that Beijing will also establish more world-class science and technology research institutions and proactively integrate with the global innovation network.

That includes establishing new funds for international research and enhancing international cooperation on climate change, energy and resources, public health, artificial intelligence and other fields with foreign countries, he added.

"Beijing becoming a global science, technology and innovation center is a strategic pillar for supporting China's transformation into a scientific powerhouse, and will have a significant effect on whether our nation can achieve its goal of self-reliance in science and technology," Li said.

Beijing is one of the most resourceful and innovative regions in China, hosting over 90 universities, 1,000 research institutes and nearly 30,000 State-level high-tech companies, Li said.

The capital also boasts nearly half of all academicians from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. From 2016 to last year, the Ministry of Science and Technology allocated over 57 billion yuan ($8.82 billion) to support around 2,580 research projects in Beijing, Li said.

Jin Wei, Beijing's vice-mayor, said last week that the city has launched new research institutes in artificial intelligence, brain science, quantum technology and applied math, adding that it will focus on overcoming key obstacles in integrated circuits, new advanced materials, high-end instruments and other engineering fields.

Apart from resources and infrastructure, Jin stressed that capable talent is a key part of science and technology development.

"We need to nurture and attract quality talent and put them to good use, and grant our scientists more autonomy in their resources and research routes," he said.

"By 2025, Beijing will emerge as an international science, technology and innovation center. By 2035, Beijing's ability for innovation, competitiveness and prestige in science and technology will start leading the world, as well as becoming a prime destination for international talent."

Bright prospects

Foreign scientists said launching new global science projects in frontier sciences, encouraging exploration and having a greater tolerance for failure, as well as attracting more foreign talent, will be beneficial for the capital's future as a global science hub.

Joao Guimaraes da Costa, a professor at CAS's Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing, said one of the reasons he came to China in 2015 was because the country was proposing to build new state-of-the-art instruments that could help solve the mysteries of fundamental particles.

One such machine is the proposed Circular Electron Positron Collider. If built, the instrument will be the world's largest and most powerful particle collider, measuring 100 kilometers in circumference. The current record holder is the Large Hadron Collider in Europe at 27 km.

"We have reached our limits with the machines we have. If we want to probe deeper, we will need a new machine and China is a place where (building a new collider) can probably be done," he said.

Da Costa said science can facilitate communication and understanding between people and countries.

"This is why international cooperation is very important," he said, adding that major international projects like the CEPC will help China become a global leader in particle physics.

Munawar Iqbal, an associate professor at the institute, said developing countries sometimes lack the resources needed for fundamental research, which is why many scientists from such countries flock to the United States and Europe to advance their careers.

But now Beijing, as well as other cities in China, have emerged as attractive destinations for foreign scientists because they have many advanced laboratories, funding and opportunities for exploring basic sciences, he said, adding, "The future of science and technology in China is very good."

Meanwhile, foreign scientists, especially talented young ones, can come to the country and build lasting relationships with peers from China, which will lay a foundation for future international collaboration between their countries, Iqbal said.

"I often invite my students from Pakistan to come to study in China because I know the environment is conducive (for research), the people are friendly, and China is also close to Pakistan," he said.

"I have already established collaboration between my university and institute in Pakistan with those in China. I think this cooperation will not only benefit science in China and Pakistan, but also the world."

Global enterprise

Richard Corlett, a professor at CAS's Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, said China has a positive attitude toward science and sustainable development, highlighted by the country's strong emphasis on basic research and environmental protection.

"One of the strengths of China's scientific development in the last 20 years has been this recognition that science is a global enterprise," he said. "In the past, it was mostly Chinese scientists going abroad for research, and now it is increasingly the other way around with graduate students coming to study in China."

China traditionally excels in technical fields, such as chemistry and materials science, and is also emerging as a major contributor in radio astronomy and space technology. But it is relatively behind in environmental science, he said.

As China continues to push the envelope of science, Corlett said, it is imperative for the Chinese scientific community to have a greater tolerance of failure, which is a key characteristic behind the success of scientific powerhouses like the US and United Kingdom.

"If you are doing science at the cutting edge, half of the time it is not going to work," he said, adding it is crucial to have scientists willing to take that risk and still have a meaningful career if things do not go as planned.

Dambaru Ballab Kattel, a researcher at CAS's Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, said China has not only seen remarkable scientific development in the last decade, but it is also willing to share that knowledge and collaborate with the global scientific community to jointly tackle common issues.

For example, Kattel said, the Third Pole Environment Program, a global initiative to study environmental changes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has fostered a cooperative research relationship between China and Nepal, his home country.

"China is becoming a global educational and research hub, and building more platforms to attract foreign talent will help enhance its capability for innovation," he said.

(Editor:Wang Su)

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Beijing sets sights on science
Source:China Daily | 2021-01-26 07:31
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