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.