Technology strategist hails successful projects achieved through cooperation
The United States and China have benefited greatly from cooperation in science, technology and innovation, a senior Chinese science strategist said, lamenting the recent protectionist turn in the US.
Hu Zhijian, president of the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development, said an objective appreciation of such accomplishments would help ease recent technology and trade frictions and reveal new grounds for win-win cooperation between the countries.
China and the US had been close partners in integrated research and development for most of the past four decades, Hu said.
From 2012 to 2015, the number of collaborative research projects involving Chinese and US institutions increased by more than 80 percent, according to a blue paper on China's contribution to STI and global governance published by the academy last year. Chinese and US scientists had co-authored more than 55,000 papers by 2014.
Moreover, scientists from both countries had cooperated on climate change, clean energy, environmental protection, health, agriculture and other fields related to sustainable development and people's livelihoods, the blue paper said.
It added that Chinese enterprises had set up research and development facilities in the US, while US companies had established more than 800 R&D centers in China covering industries including electronics, information technology, software, food manufacturing, cosmetics, home furnishing and finance.
"These interactions have created a flow of talent and know-how to provide better products and services for the people of both countries and the world," Hu said.
Over time, China and US had developed different but crucial positions in the global industrial system and value chain, Hu said. The US was at the top, given its leading position in STI and emerging industries, while China was at the middle and lower end of the industrial and value chain, but striving to climb up.
Like Japan, Singapore, South Korea and other countries before it, China was improving its people's living standards through education, trade, infrastructure investment and technologies.
"These feats mean China will inevitably close its gap with developed countries," Hu said. "But it does not mean China wants to or is capable of challenging the US's global dominance."
Historically, China's technological rise was not an issue that troubled the US, he said, because the US maintained its lead role by attracting the best talent from around the world to fuel its STI efforts - pushing new frontiers, making new products and climbing up the industrial value chain.
"However, STI development is an arduous process, and the US has grown increasingly anxious that its lead is being eroded," Hu said. "So instead of staying ahead via continued innovation, it has turned protectionist toward China and other developing countries and used unconventional means, from tariffs to travel restrictions, in the hope of keeping them behind."
At the same time, the US was plagued by many domestic issues, ranging from growing social inequality to rising corporate influence, and ordinary US people, notably those from Midwestern states, felt disenfranchised by globalization and technological progress because "the fruits of these trends have been mostly reaped by the elites from coastal states".
"When internal issues become too difficult to handle, politicians often rely on scapegoating to divert public frustration and attract support, especially during election years," Hu said.
"But the US public must realize that blaming China and other countries for its economic, social and existential woes will not solve its issues, it will only exacerbate them to disastrous levels for all."
Despite the US's effort to disconnect with China, Hu said full detachment was unlikely in the long run because it would not be in the interests of either country.
"China's market and its pivotal role in the global industrial chain are too important for US companies to give up," he said.
In addition, science requires the exchange of ideas and collaboration to progress. When faced with common challenges, from climate change to changing ethical landscapes in artificial intelligence and biosciences, "it will require a global joint effort to find the best solution to tackle these emerging issues," Hu said.
"Dividing the scientific community and the world, as some politicians are implying, is dangerous and counterintuitive to maximizing the potential of science and its benefit for the people," he said.
Given the unpredictability of the current US administration, China needs to "keep a rational, objective outlook and focus on improving its own capability at its own pace", he said. "We must have the confidence and patience to get through turbulent times."