Published June 30th, 2010 by Future Atlas
The Washington Post covered China’s rising scientific prowess today, revealing both impressive gains and some weak spots.
China is steadily accumulating bragging points:
- China has the world’s second-fastest supercomputer.
- China has gone from 14th place in 1995 in publications in scientific and technical journals to 2nd now, behind the US.
- A Chinese institute made the largest-ever purchase of high-tech genome-sequencing machines, and with them “could very well surpass the entire gene-sequencing output of the United States.”
- More Chinese researchers are being lured back to their homeland after training in the US (raising issues around the risks and rewards of hosting so many Chinese students).
Chinese weaknesses are apparent too:
- Government bureaucrats “mandate discoveries,” completely missing the nature of innovation (and likely promoting shoddy work).
- China engages in huge amounts of junk science–the articles cites dubious stem cell therapies–and junk patents.
- Plagiarism and doctored results are commonplace — which should give Western researchers, especially those in health and pharma, pause.
Perhaps most interesting are indications that Chinese researchers are less constrained by ethical concerns than Western scientists. One Chinese geneticist mentioned in the article is studying the genomes of his most adept peers in school, comparing them to “normal kids.” If something is too controversial for the West — cloning, human enhancement, or genetic interventions, for instance — it could well end up happening in China.