October 11-18, 2017

Having conquered world markets and challenged US political and military leadership, China has set its sights on becoming a global powerhouse in a different field: scientific research. It now has more laboratory scientists than any other country, outspends the entire European Union on research and development, and produces more scientific articles than any other nation except the United States. But in its rush to dominance, China has stood out in another, less boastful way. Since 2012, the country has retracted more scientific papers because of faked peer reviews than all other countries and territories put together, according to Retraction Watch, a blog that tracks and seeks to publicize retractions of research papers. 

China is at a historic economic juncture. Its urban-centric growth model has orphaned the rural population while the urban population struggles with incomes below OECD levels and housing, education, and health costs above those in Europe. Science and technology policy is also at a critical point, with China on the edge of a series of techno-industrial upgrades into super advanced industries, shifting its growth model into high-end value-added manufactures. To achieve this, China is reconfiguring its science research funding bureaucracy. Projects that proliferated under the 12th Five Year Plan are being streamlined into a new, simplified funding arrangement. This includes the previous umbrella programs of 973 (basic science research) and 863 (high technology research).

For the past 30 years or so, postdoctoral researchers from China have played an important role in chemistry research groups at universities in the United States, but the supply of Chinese researchers is starting to dry up. Among the PhD graduates of the top chemistry schools in China, a shrinking few are interested in pursuing a postdoc in the United States or other Western countries. Their reasons vary, but essentially the job market in China has become attractive for young chemistry graduates. In addition, owing to China's heavy investment in science in recent years, students are unconvinced that going abroad will yield sufficient benefits.

Ningbo Exciton Technology Co Ltd is one of the beneficiaries of Ningbo's talent recruitment project "3315 Plan." "In addition to financial support, Ningbo government has helped us by providing land to build two factories, one in Jiangbei District and the other in Xiangshan County," said Flory Ren, research and development engineer of Ningbo Exciton. With such support, the company managed to break the monopoly of foreign technology by developing its own quality optical film for Chinese companies to apply it in the production of screens without having to import film from foreign countries.

China has stepped up efforts to work with American businesses in a bid to acquire advanced technology, part of a drive to become a leading technology innovation power. "China is pushing to further deepen technology collaboration with US business and academic institutions as part of a national effort to transform its economy, including by putting China at the leading edge of global technological innovation," said a US intelligence official who provided a recent assessment of China. "At the same time, Beijing is trying to downplay concerns that this state-led technology acquisition drive creates an unlevel playing field, forces technology transfers to China, limits foreign companies' access to the Chinese market and is a threat to US and other companies economic strengths," the official added.

A research report released recently by UBS recognized the innovation development of China in past five years, and predicts that China will become a global innovation powerhouse thanks to improved education quality, input in research and development and policy support to innovation, Economic Daily reported.

The State-backed Tsinghua Holdings, the technology investment arm of China's Tsinghua University and the largest university-owned enterprise in the world, recently launched its Trans-X Innovation Eco, or "TIE" for short, in the United States. As part of Tsinghua Holdings' latest development plan, TIE aims to bring advanced science and technology projects to the market and upgrade existing entrepreneurship incubation systems.

"Proposals on further supporting foreign-funded R&D centers to participate in building Shanghai into a Science and Technology Innovation Center with Global Influence" was released by Shanghai Municipal People's Government. The proposals include 16 concrete measures with a focus on creating a sound investment environment in the city by encouraging foreign centers to join the research and development of vital projects; strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights; and attracting high-end foreign talent by optimizing work permit applications and entry and exit procedures. As of August, Shanghai has the most foreign-funded R&D centers in China, with a total of 416 having settled in the city, accounting for 25 percent of the Chinese mainland.

Rice grown on a commercial scale in diluted seawater has made it into the rice bowls of ordinary Chinese people after a breakthrough in food production following more than four decades of efforts by farmers, researchers, government agencies, and businesses.

China's tech sector, once reluctant to display any political affiliations, is becoming more open about ties with the ruling Communist party, on the eve of a landmark meeting where the country's next leaders will be chosen. More than 35 tech companies, including large groups such as Sina and Baidu, have quietly instituted party committees in recent years. These assess a company's daily operations to ensure they do not stray from party objectives, but had typically been given little fanfare because of concerns around alienating foreign partners and investors. Now tech groups are increasingly promoting their party ties.
China Seeks Dominance of Global AI Industry | Financial Times (requires subscription)

If the development of artificial intelligence is an arms race, then China wants to become the world's unchallenged AI superpower. While the National Science Foundation in the United States has no increase in funding this year, China has promised to "vigorously use governmental and social capital" to dominate the industry. US and Chinese tech companies alike are plowing money and talent into AI, but Beijing's blueprint for investing in artificial intelligence--creating a $150bn industry by 2030--underlines its desire to beat the United States.

China has accelerated its steps to develop artificial intelligence.  "The nation is gaining ground in AI, with some advanced technologies already pioneered for the world. There is also an urgent need for companies and institutes to unite to optimize the whole industry chain to create a healthier ecology," said Lin Nianxiu, deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission. He made the comments at a ceremony where an industry alliance to promote development of China's AI industry was officially established.

Zhou Bowen, an authoritative scientist in the artificial intelligence sector, joined e-commerce firm JD as vice president of JD Group. In his new role, Zhou will be responsible for businesses related to JD's AI research and platform unit. Zhou will directly report to JD Group's chairman and chief executive officer Liu Qiangdong. JD's AI research and platform unit will focus on AI algorithm innovation and expanding AI for retail infrastructures.


An 8.5-tonne Chinese space station has accelerated its out-of-control descent towards Earth and is expected to crash to the surface within a few months. The Tiangong-1 or "Heavenly Palace" lab was launched in 2011 and described as a "potent political symbol" of China, part of an ambitious scientific push to turn China into a space superpower. It was used for both manned and unmanned missions and visited by China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, in 2012. But in 2016, after months of speculation, Chinese officials confirmed they had lost control of the space station and it would crash to Earth in 2017 or 2018. China's space agency has since notified the United Nations that it expects Tiangong-1 to come down between October 2017 and April 2018.

A cutting-edge domestic steam generator has departed for the first demonstration nuclear power project using Hualong One technology, a domestically developed third-generation reactor design. The Hualong One ZH-65 steam generator has a life span of 60 years with lower outlet humidity and a higher power-weight ratio than previous technology. The generator was developed by a team led by Zhang Fuyuan, chief designer at the Nuclear Power Institute of China. It was designed for the No. 5 unit of Fuqing Nuclear Plant in Fujian Province, a project of the China National Nuclear Corporation.

China's top environmental watchdog has created a national research and development (R&D) task force to implement the more than two dozen research programs identified by the country's cabinet last month. Various research facilities in China are separately studying green technology and pollution, but the Joint National Center for Air Pollution Prevention can pool all these resources together and will be more efficient, a person briefed about plans for the center told Caixin. A centralized system would also have the strength to push forward new environmental technologies and policies when dealing with regional governments, according to the source, who wished to remain anonymous.

US politicians have been warning for years that America couldn't let China win the clean energy race. That's exactly what has happened, with the trends most stark in electric cars, solar, and nuclear energy.

China sent the World Trade Organization 50 questions about US subsidy programs, asking for more information on federal and state support for new energy vehicles, industrial energy efficiency, agriculture, and in other areas. The WTO has strict rules on subsidies and every member has to declare how their subsidy programs work to ensure they are not breaching trade rules by giving their  national firms an unfair advantage. China's 10-page list of questions focused on the US notification of its subsidy programs in 2015.
Produced by the IGCC Project on the
Study of Innovation & Technology in China

Feedback?  Email us