Nation regards young professionals as primary resource to propel growth
From giving middle schoolers hands-on research experience to hosting academic forums for young scientists, China is bolstering its efforts to nurture and attract top research talents who can contribute to the country's socioeconomic development and strategic needs, experts said.
China regards such talented professionals as the primary resource and will continue to prioritize education development and rely on such talents to pioneer and propel growth, according to the report presented by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, to the 20th CPC National Congress last month.
Since the end of October, news related to China's science and technology human resources has captured the public's attention.
The trend began with the China Association for Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education announcing last week that they had launched a talent program that would give 1,700 Chinese middle school students a chance to do research for a year with noted scientists from 58 universities across the country.
The organizers said their goals with the program, which has been in place since 2013, are to open China's high-quality science and education resources to younger generations, spark young students' interest in basic sciences and cultivate the analytical and problem-solving skills these young people will need to pursue a career in science and technology.
On Tuesday, the 73rd anniversary of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the institution launched the first Yanqi Lake Youth Forum for young scientists. The forum, in Beijing's Huairou district, provided a platform for promising scientists younger than age 45 to share their latest work, exchange ideas, and discover opportunities for interdisciplinary research and collaboration.
But the biggest talent-related news was the announcement by noted Chinese structural biologist Yan Ning that she would resign from Princeton University and return from the United States to help build the Shenzhen Medical Academy of Research and Translation.
"Shenzhen is the city of dreams, and I want to realize my next dream here," the 45-year-old scientist said at the Shenzhen Global Innovation Talent Forum on Tuesday.
Her announcement was viewed over 300 million times on the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, with many netizens leaving messages supporting her decision to return. While at Princeton University, Yan was elected as the US National Academy of Sciences Foreign Associate in 2019 for her outstanding contribution to biological sciences.
Huai Jinpeng, minister of education, told China Central Television that such talented people and education are sources of innovation. China will accelerate its transformation into a global hub for talented people and innovation.
Nurturing such people will be the No 1 mission for education, he added. Training a top innovative workforce and attracting high-quality professionals from around the world will be a joint mission for China's education, science and technology, and human resources strategies.
Zhao Lina, a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said she is highly motivated by the workforce-related items highlighted in the 20th CPC National Congress report.
"It is now a great time to be a young scientist in China, thanks to the increasing opportunities and support from the country and research institutions," she said.
Zhao's work used machine learning to analyze data generated by large scientific instruments.
"I am very fortunate to have this platform, and we should seize the opportunity to make original breakthroughs," she said.
"The key to success for a young scientist is to not worry too much about money and fame and to focus on big scientific questions worth devoting your entire life to."
Wang Lei, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Physics, said utilizing AI and having a strong ability to filter information are crucial qualities for young scientists.
"After the birth of the People's Republic of China, many of the forerunners of Chinese science and technology took on major projects with national significance while in their 30s and 40s; we have to pass down their spirit," he said. "We also need to nurture such young talented professionals because they are the future."
Xu Cao, a young researcher at the CAS' Institute of Genetics and Development Biology, said he is excited to see the academy and the country supporting exchanges and growth of young scientists.
"I work in agricultural science and crop innovation. In the past, if I wanted to find peers in chemistry, physics, artificial intelligence, big data, or automation, I had to look online, which is often inaccurate or inconvenient," he said.
"Now I have more opportunities to meet them face-to-face and discuss new ideas. This is great and inspiring for finding new research projects. Young scientists should not be content with re-treading existing research, but should focus on opening new fields and finding new routes and solutions."