By: Hepeng Jia and Fu Jing


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[BEIJING] China could become a major power in science and technology and benefit Europe with its advances, according to a report released yesterday (17 January).

This and two other studies by UK think-tank Demos praise the pace of innovation in China, India and South Korea, which it says is shifting research dominance from west to east.

The China report examines the factors that will shape Chinese science and innovation over the next decade and suggests how to improve collaboration with Europe.

It traces China's innovation-boosting policies since early 2006. China hopes to increase research and development investment from 1.3 per cent to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020.

Key to China's success are the government's ability to mobilise resources, the world's largest scientific workforce, a high output of scientific papers and a successful strategy to attract overseas talents back to the country.

The report's authors write that with "such large and sustained investment in innovation" China is likely to produce "a growing number of extraordinary achievements at the frontiers of science over the next ten or 15 years".

However, China still has several weaknesses, including the low quality of some researchers, economic disparities between regions and a lack of openness, diversity and tolerance in its politics. Plagiarism and research misconduct must also be dealt with if China is to become a scientific power.

The authors refute that China's rise would adversely affect Europe, instead seeing China as a trading partner, research collaborator and a market for European goods and services.

They recommend that the UK government support more two-way exchanges of people and ideas, as well as collaborations with wider social benefits, such as participatory technology development in China's rural areas.

Speaking at the launch, Sir David King, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said the UK would try to attract more Chinese scientists to work with British counterparts, and encourage more Chinese students to study in the United Kingdom.

The report, China: The next science superpower?, was part of Demos' Atlas of Ideas, an 18-month study of science and innovation in China, India and South Korea.