China S&T News Digest for September 6-12, 2017

The journal  Economic and Political Studies seeks papers for a special issue on Innovation, Technological Development, and Industrial Restructuring in China. Deadline for submission is  September 30, 2017. 


A decade ago, biophysicist Shi Yigong answered the call from his home country, resigning from Princeton University and heading back to China for good. On the weekend, Shi, dean of Tsinghua University's life sciences school, was awarded US$1 million as one of three recipients of this year's Future Science Prize, a series launched last year as China's version of the Nobels. Quantum satellite researcher Professor Pan Jianwei, 47, picked up the award for physical sciences while Peking University's Xu Chenyang, 36, was the recipient in mathematics and computer science. All three scientists studied and worked abroad before returning to pursue research in China.

Faced with rising labor costs, China is making a strong move to establish itself as the world's leading manufacturer of robots. The country is already the world's largest buyer of industrial robots, but it has lagged behind Japan when it comes to technology development. There are signs of rapid change, however. According to a report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), China will triple its sales of robots by 2018. By 2019, the IFR predicts that more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world, and China will account for 40 percent of global robotics sales.

The number of China's patent operations stood at more than 170,000 in 2016, a year-on-year increase of nearly 20 percent, according to the latest data from the Patent Information Annual Conference of China 2017 held in Beijing September 5-6. Patent operations include patent transfer, licenses, and pledges. Intellectual property is playing an increasingly important role in China's exchange with other countries in fields like economy, trade, science and technology, and culture, Shen Changyu, head of the State Intellectual Property Office, said at the opening ceremony.

As US debates have focused on trade deficits and recovering manufacturing jobs, Beijing has achieved the scientific and technological feats that herald its arrival as an innovation superpower. These "Sputnik Moments" extend across multiple industries, from communications technology to renewable energy. Collectively, they pose a risk to America's future economic dynamism, as well as its military superiority.

China is building the world's largest quantum research facility to develop a quantum computer and other "revolutionary" forms of technology that can be used by the military for code-breaking or on stealth submarines, according to scientists and authorities involved in the project. The National Laboratory for Quantum Information Science will be located on a 37-hectare site next to a small lake in Hefei, Anhui province. Pan Jianwei, China's lead quantum scientist who was playing a key role in the project, told local officials at a briefing in May that technology developed in the facility would be of immediate use to the armed forces, according to Anhui Business Daily newspaper.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is teaming up with other ministries and related departments to draft new policies to better cultivate the AI industry, Economic Information Daily reports. Favorable tax policies will be rolled out to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises that are working on AI. More efforts will also be made to open government data and experiment with new ways to tap into data, the report said. Meanwhile, new policies will be unveiled to channel more resources into AI research, in the hope of advancing innovation capability. More innovation centers will be established to achieve breakthrough, it added.

China-backed private equity firm Canyon Bridge Capital Partners is close to making an offer for Britain's Imagination Technologies Group that would exclude the troubled chip-maker's US business, according to people familiar with the discussions. Canyon Bridge, which says it's based in Silicon Valley with an office in Beijing, is keen to structure a bid to avoid scrutiny from US regulators, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. The company's $1.3 billion purchase of Portland, Oregon-based Lattice Semiconductor, whose programmable logic chips are used in military communications, is being opposed by United States.

Chinese scientists claim they have developed a working model of a microwave engine, which defies the laws of conventional physics, CCTV-2 reported. The TV channel provided no details of the EmDrive microwave engine, saying only that it would soon be tested in space.

After conducting three successful robotic lunar missions between 2007 and 2013, China's moon exploration program appears to be entering a slower, more tentative phase. The nation had intended to loft its Chang'e 5 spacecraft on a Long March 5 rocket by the end of the year, to land on and retrieve samples from the lunar surface. But a July launch failure of another Long March 5 has seemingly deferred those efforts for months--perhaps years. With the Chang'e 5 sample-return mission now unofficially but apparently on hold, China may instead next use a different rocket booster to send a lunar lander and rover to the moon's far side in 2018.

Once reserved for the military, China's space-based positioning system is powering a rapidly growing range of domestic businesses that represent the fusion of the military and industry President Xi Jinping is trying to advance. BeiDou is set to span the globe by 2020 with the launch of its 35th satellite. By that year, the market for products and services that depend on the system is projected to balloon to 240 billion yuan ($36.9 billion)--four times the size in 2016. China's native satellite positioning system controlled less than 30 percent of the domestic market last year, behind the share held by GPS. But BeiDou is expected to expand its share to 60 percent by 2020. This is all part of the roadmap drawn by China's top leadership, which is putting BeiDou front and center of its efforts to expand military-industrial cooperation.
Interview: UK Space Official Sees China as Natural Partner in Satellite Applications
| Xinhua News

With China's growing investment in space science and technology and its increasing market demand for satellite applications, countries like Britain are looking to work more closely with China. "China is a huge country and satellites are perfect in providing the data unique for agriculture, for climate, for air quality," Chris Lee, head of International Space Partnerships at UK Space Agency, told Xinhua. The two sides have made efforts to promote satellite applications in some specific areas, including a joint initiative that will use the UK's expertise in remote sensing and modeling in the area of agricultural technology to work with and aid the Chinese farming community.

Global automakers see the future of electric cars, and it looks Chinese. The biggest players are shifting crucial scientific and design work to China as the country invests heavily in car-charging stations and research and pushes automakers to embrace battery-powered vehicles. China underscored that ambition over the weekend, when it said it would eventually ban the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars at an unspecified date.
China Eyes Eventual Ban of Petrol and Diesel Cars | Financial Times (requires subscription)

A growing movement to eventually ban combustion engine cars has received a boost with a statement from China--the world's largest car market--that it is studying such a move. Comments by a senior government official signaled that China might soon join the UK and France. Both countries recently announced they would prohibit the production of diesel and petrol cars by 2040. 

China is working on a national strategy on smart cars, and mulls banning production and sales of fossil fuel cars, according to policymakers attending a forum on automotive industry development. With the global auto industry leaning toward intelligent and electric vehicles, work has begun on a timetable to ban manufacture and sales of traditional energy cars, according to Xin Guobin, vice minister of industry and information technology.

China's new-energy auto firms saw shares surge in Monday morning trade, extending recent strong gains, after a government official said over the weekend that China had begun looking at a ban on traditional petrol-engine cars. Chinese electric-car maker BYD Co Ltd, backed by US billionaire Warren Buffet, saw its shares jump, while lithium products maker Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co Ltd rose more than 5 percent to a record high.

Spiking cobalt prices are expected to squeeze makers of new-energy vehicle batteries in the second half of the year as they are unlikely to be able to pass on rising costs to manufacturers trying to meet Beijing's ambitious targets for the sector. Over the last 12 months, cobalt prices have more than doubled to a current level of about $60,000 per metric ton ($66,140 per ton), versus $25,000 a year ago, according to the London Metals Exchange. That jump has helped fuel profits for miners of the metal, which is a key component in batteries used to power electric and hybrid cars.
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Study of Innovation & Technology in China

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