China S&T News Digest for August 23 - 29, 2017

China unveiled a five-year plan on promoting integrated military and civilian development in the science and technology sector. The plan was jointly issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Science and Technology Commission of the Central Military Commission. A coordinated military-civilian innovation system for the sector should be put in place by 2020, in addition to breakthroughs in mechanisms and exploring cost-efficient patterns, the document said. It also identified a new round of key sci-tech projects in military-civilian integration towards 2030, such as an integrated information system, quantum communication/computing, and brain science/brain-inspired intelligence.

China is planning to boost its computing power tenfold within a couple of years by building a new generation supercomputer. The machine will be based on the coast of Shandong province to process the data collected from the world's oceans, according to scientists briefed on the project. Three independent supercomputer manufacturers on the mainland are competing for the contract. They include Sugon, or the Dawning Information Industry, which is owned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the National University of Defense Technology, which built the Tianhe series supercomputers, and the Sunway team. 

When Wang Junfeng, a Chinese post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School, told his wife in 2009 that they would give up the life they had built in America to move to a small island in east China, she had no idea what he was talking about. Located on the outskirts of Hefei, capital of Anhui Province, the island, home to more than 10 research institutes and 1,000 top researchers like Wang, has been dubbed "Science Island." 
Five Years On: Innovation in ChinaState Council Information Office of PRC

The Communist Party of China will hold its 19th Party Congress later this year, which occurs once every five years. China SCIO has compiled a series of infographics to summarize the country's achievements made in the past five years.

China's State Council issued a guideline for the development of the country's information technology industry. The State Council expects China's IT industry to reach 6 trillion yuan ($901 billion) in value by 2020, based on an average annual growth rate of 11 percent. The report includes references to nascent developments in e-commerce, robotics, and artificial intelligence as well as technology for traditional industries including medicine and education.

LinkedIn has joined the conversation on China's AI industry--and it isn't as bullish as other recent reports. Their survey of the global AI talent scene (in Chinese) reveals that in terms of personnel working in AI and the experience they have, China lags far further behind than many had imagined.

China-based AI chip startup Cambricon Technologies has newly raised US$100 million in series A round funding to support its development of advanced AI chips, which is expected to help turn the company into a tech unicorn with over US$1 billion in valuation in the near future, according to company sources. The funding was led by SDIC Chuangye Investment Management, a subsidiary of China's State Development and Investment Corporation, with prominent investors including Alibaba, Lenovo, robot maker Zhongke Tuling Century Beijing Technology, and the investment arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), among others.

China Life Insurance Group Co and Baidu Inc will form a 7 billion yuan ($1 billion) private equity fund, targeting Internet and other technology investments, China Life's listed arm said on Thursday. The Baidu Fund Partnership will be capitalized by China Life through a special partnership, which will contribute up to 5.6 billion yuan, China Life said in a Hong Kong Stock Exchange statement. Baidu, the Chinese language internet search provider, will contribute as much as 1.4 billion yuan. The Baidu Fund Partnership will focus on middle to later stage investment, including unlisted companies with "significant association" with China, in the Internet sector, including mobile internet, artificial intelligence, and Internet finance, the statement said.

Baidu's vice president, as well as head of Baidu's AI department Wang Haifeng, will serve as director of Baidu Research Institute. With Wang's increased dominance in Baidu's AI arm, Baidu's Artificial Intelligence Group (AIG) will strengthen R&D on the AI application technology for commercial use, including autonomous driving and airport services.

Sky News has learned that Canyon Bridge Capital Partners has hired advisers from the Wall Street bank Citi to work on an offer for Imagination, one of Britain's leading technology businesses. Sources said that Canyon Bridge had made significant progress during talks with Imagination in recent weeks, with a formal bid expected to be presented to the London-listed group in the next fortnight. They added that talks between Imagination and other unidentified parties were ongoing, and cautioned that Canyon Bridge could yet decide against making a formal bid.
ASML Opens Branch Office in Nanjing | DIGITIMES (requires login)

ASML has announced the opening of a new branch office in Nanjing, China where its major client TSMC is constructing a new 12-inch wafer plant. TSMC is on track to complete the construction of its new 12-inch fab in Nanjing, which will directly enter 16nm chip production in 2018. Being among TSMC's major equipment suppliers, ASML will start to supply lithography systems and services to the foundry's new Nanjing facility in September 2017. 

Wearable body sensors are becoming the latest "must-have" technology. Now scientists from the Tsinghua University in China report they are using silk to develop a more sensitive and flexible generation of these multi-purpose devices that monitor a slew of body functions in real time. "There is a whole world of possibilities for silk sensors at the moment. Silk is the ideal material for fabricating sensors that are worn on the body," researcher Yingying Zhang said in a statement. The researchers are presenting their work this week at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

A new nuclear safety law in China is ready to be passed, state media said. Safety in China's nuclear industry has become increasingly important as it seeks to increase exports of its nuclear technologies. China has already signed agreements to build reactors in Argentina, Romania, Egypt, and Kenya. It plans to build more than 60 nuclear plants at home in the coming decade and will see total domestic capacity rise to 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020.

Chinese scientists said that they have developed a super steel that has a high level of both strength and ductility, a breakthrough that may have a wide variety of industrial applications. Furthermore, its material cost is just one-fifth of that of the steel used in the current aerospace and defense applications, they reported in the US journal Science.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed ongoing efforts in building an ecological civilization by adhering to green development concepts. Efforts to pursue green development and an ecological civilization should be made generation by generation to create harmony between humans and nature, and leave a better environment for future generations, Xi said. Xi  made the remarks in an instruction on the achievements of a forest farm in the country's northern Hebei Province.

Xi's attempts to impose his own style of governance are being sorely tested by his determination to confront one of the most severe, yet long downplayed, challenges facing the country-- ecology. China's phenomenal rise over the past 40 years to become the world's second largest economy has been accompanied by severe ecological damage--as evidenced in air, river, and soil pollution. Smog now hangs over much of China, particularly in winter, and more than two thirds of the country's rivers are heavily polluted, with some deemed too toxic even to be fit for animals to drink. But the political will to tackle the issue has been sorely lacking, even though the environmental degradation has become a key source of social discontent. 

With large public and private investments inland and in the United States, China plans to become the next AI-genomics powerhouse. China's ambition is to lead the global market for precision medicine, which necessitates acquiring strategic technological and human capital in both genomics and AI. There are significant economic incentives behind China's heavy investment in the increasing convergence of AI and genomics. This golden combination will drive precision medicine to new heights by developing a more sophisticated understanding of how our genomes function, leading to precise, even personalized, cancer therapeutics and preventive diagnostics, such as liquid biopsies. By one estimate, the liquid biopsy market is expected to be worth $40 billion in 2017.
Drone Swarms Versus Conventional Arms: China's Military Debate | Financial Times (requires subscription)

The June 11 demonstration of "swarm" technology by China Electronics Technology Group, a state-owned high-tech company, included 119 drones. That made it the world's largest-ever swarm, according to CETC, breaking a US-held record. Each tiny aircraft--bought online for a few hundred dollars--is loaded with software and sensors capable of communicating with the other drones in the swarm. Developers are working towards a future where thousands could operate in sync, identifying and attacking targets. In theory, such swarms could feature drones fitted with missiles or warheads capable of sophisticated attacks designed to overwhelm defenses with their sheer numbers.
Produced by the IGCC Project on the
Study of Innovation & Technology in China

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