Posted: Sep 17, 2010

Chinese science and technology has long way to go, says Russian expert

(Nanowerk News) China's science and technology could reach the average level of Western developed countries by the mid-century, but before that it still has a long way to go, a Russian expert told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Chinese scientific supramecy: A long way to go
Chinese leadership has been trying to push modernization in one form or another for 30 years, Professor Yakov Berger from the Far East Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Xinhua.
Chinese leaders have made scientific and technological breakthrough a national strategy, with high priority given to enhancing capacity for independent innovation, he said.
Berger noted that in 2020 the funds allocated for scientific research will reach 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), and the percentage of science-intensive products should be brought to 60 percent.
Presently, China has entered the top four world leaders by number of patents. It also aspires to become the world leader in science and technology by the mid-century, he said.
However, he said the state of Chinese scientific research and technological development "is far from what is desired."
Until recently, China paid relatively little attention to the development of its own know-how, said Berger.
"This is the reason why Chinese economy, in terms of adaptability to hi-tech developments, occupies the 24th place, behind Brazil and India," he said.
The situation has started to change in recent years, with China advancing to the fifth position in the world by funding its own scientific research, he said.
"Technoparks and hi-tech incubators have mushroomed. Their number in China now is second only to the United States," he said, adding that 15 out of every 100 scientists in the world are Chinese, and their number grows five times as fast as that in the United States.
Chinese scientists thrive in the areas like basic research in physics and chemistry, once again yielding only to the United States, while stepping on the U.S. toes in nano-technology sector.
Problems facing China's modernization
To Berger, one of the problems China faces in its modernization process is mechanical transformation of state-run institution into private companies.
"There are few large corporations working in the fundamental research, because their funding depends on practical, immediate application of the results. So the state must pay more attention to supporting the 'not-so-much-applied' studies," he said.
Other major problems Chinese science faces, he said, include its fragmented system, little involvement of business, poor protection of intellectual property, and underfinancing of basic research.
Shortage of scientific resources and lack of motivation for businesses to invest in pure science hinder modernization, Berger said, adding that the re-investment from private companies into research merely takes up 0.75 percent of sales revenue.
"To be competitive, the company must re-invest over 2 percent," he said.
Berger also believed Chinese banks should support small-and-medium-sized start-ups, which would demand reformation of the national banking system itself.
Also, he said, Chinese enterprises must create more attractive conditions for foreign talented scholars, and the Chinese government has to resolve the problem of brain drain.
Beijing partly succeeded in mending this problem, he said.
"The Chinese government allowed scholars to leave the country freely as well as to transfer the money earned while working abroad. Scientists have been provided with all available facilities, with the grants up to 1 million yuan (148,000 U.S. dollars)," the professor said.
Still, many Chinese scientists prefer not to return and continue to work in the country where they received their degrees, he said.
Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences