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  • 1. China's scientific power

  • We're used to China's growing power in almost every field from trade to geopolitics, and now it's the turn of science.

  • On January the 3rd, China landed a rover on the far side of the moon.

  • It was the first country to do so, and it signaled China's soaring ambitions in science.

  • Space is just one area in which they're pouring many millions of dollars into research.

  • Genomics, quantum communications, materials, in all these areas, China is putting a huge effort into becoming a leader.

  • And it's about 10 or 15 years before China becomes a scientific superpower.

  • 2. Should the world be worried?

  • China's going to all these efforts because it knows that a strong science base is essential if it is to be a first class economic and military power, but in the rush to get ahead, Chinese scientist sometimes take ethical shortcuts.

  • Scientific theft and copying and fraud is rampant.

  • Last year He Jiankui, an Associate Professor from Shenzin, genetically modified two embryos, without proper regard to their welfare when they were born, or indeed the welfare of any children they might go on to have.

  • At a time of growing competition between the United States and China, the West is worried what this growing scientific Chinese power really means.

  • These worries are real.

  • It's not just a question of Chinese weapons, but also of how they might use science to oppress their own people, for instance.

  • Already, China's using artificial intelligence to have real-time facial recognition of its people.

  • What is it to have a scientific superpower wrapped up in a one-party dictatorship?

  • 3. How can the world benefit?

  • Chinese research has a lot to offer the world, in say, battery technology, or the cures to diseases, or fundamental discoveries into, for instance, dark matter.

  • And, the nature of science itself may help make China a better scientific actor.

  • For one thing, science is collaborative.

  • If you try and cut yourself off as a nation, you'll only hinder your own scientific progress.

  • If it wants to be cutting edge, China will benefit from working with other countries.

  • And that means in order to collaborate and have access, its scientists will have an incentive to follow the rules.

  • But, the most interesting question of all is whether science might end up changing China.

  • 4. How will science change China?

  • President Xi Jinping is betting that he can have leading edge science at the same time as the Communist Party increases its stranglehold on Chinese society.

  • But, is he right about that?

  • Of course, not all scientists are democrats, but science itself involves critical thinking, questioning authority, empiricism, making judgments about the world.

  • And all of these things threaten autocrats who survive by controlling the way that people think.

  • So, President Xi could face a tough choice.

  • If he wants his scientists to be cutting edge, he may have to give them the freedom and risk the consequences.

  • In that sense, he's running the biggest experiment of all.

1. China's scientific power

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B1 INT UK china science scientific chinese president xi edge

Will China dominate science? | The Economist

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    Jessieeee   posted on 2019/01/21
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