China to accelerate scientific “autonomy”

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Science was at the center of the Chinese president’s concerns Speech by Xi Jinping at the Communist Party Congress on Sunday, reiterating the country’s aspirations and potential paths to becoming a global science and technology powerhouse.

The big picture: “Science and technology is the most important aspect of China’s overall desire to be self-sufficient,” said Kit Conklin, senior researcher at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center. “It feeds everything.”

  • In his speech, Xi said a key goal was to “accelerate the achievement of high-level scientific and technological self-reliance and improvement.”
  • China should be “guided by national strategic needs, muster forces to achieve original and cutting-edge scientific and technological breakthroughs, and resolutely win the battle of key and fundamental technologies,” he said.
  • These technologies include high-end AI and supercomputing chips that are subject to restrictions to be exported to China under the Biden administration’s new policies, which could set China back significantly.

Key points to remember: Xi outlined the CPC leadership’s goals to improve the country’s innovation system. They understand:

A national laboratory system: For decades, China has had a network of Key State Laboratories who conduct basic and applied research for commercial and military purposes.

  • But Beijing has seen where research conducted and funded by the US federal government has succeeded and seeks to emulate the US national laboratory system, Konklin says.
  • National labs create long-term employment opportunities for the large number of STEM doctoral students about to graduate in China, who have the option of going overseas to work, he says. “It’s as much a talent retention plan as it is a science plan.”
  • The national system in China could evolve to include more civilian-focused technologies like electric vehicles and bioinformatics, not just military technologies, he adds. “The Chinese economy does not depend on supersonics for GDP growth.”
  • It is unclear how the national labs would be managed and integrated into China’s existing science and innovation system.

Development of international collaborations: China and the United States are for each other best scientific collaborators.

  • But China lags behind the US, EU and Australia in its rates of international collaboration, measured by paper-based collaborations.
  • Beijing aspires to more cooperation with other countries, but China’s scientific collaborations under the Belt and Road Initiative with countries like Russia are “still nascent – their ties with the United States- United and their allies are even more important,” says Cole McFaul, research analyst at the Center at Georgetown University. for Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET).

Talent: China’s long-term goals in technology and innovation require STEM experts.

  • The United States is intensely focused on programs to recruit global experts in STEM fields in China, but “domestic investment is also very important and should not be ignored,” McFaul said.
  • China has invested heavily in its university system, which is now assign more STEM doctorates than American universities.

The bottom line: “China and the United States don’t have enough scientists and don’t invest as much as they would like in science and technology,” Konklin said.

  • “But Beijing and Washington recognize that whoever wins the science competition will become the more powerful of the two.”

Comments are closed.