China’s ‘whole-nation’ approach aims to lead in global science.

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  • China is aiming to become a global leader in science and technology under President Xi Jinping’s direction.
  • Experts are warning that a top-down political agenda may hinder healthy scientific inquiry.

China’s efforts to excel in science and technology are under scrutiny as researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences are being pushed to lead globally in these fields. The head of CAS, Hou Jianguo, has been rallying scientists to bolster their efforts and seize the high ground in these areas, in line with President Xi’s call to action. This push for innovation and advancement is seen as a crucial mission by the Chinese Communist Party, in response to the country’s need for self-sufficiency in technology and to transform its economy.

While a centralized system has historically produced impressive results for China, the current emphasis on a political agenda within the science community has raised concerns among experts. The whole-nation approach, which mobilizes resources nationwide towards specific goals, may not be suitable for all scientific challenges, especially those with high uncertainty and global implications. This approach could potentially lead to failures and waste, as seen in some national missions and large-scale projects that have not yielded the expected results.

Scientists are also worried that a mission-driven innovation paradigm could hinder scientific inquiry, which thrives on freedom and curiosity. While the government plays a crucial role in advancing scientific progress, experts highlight the importance of maintaining diversity in research and allowing for exploration of uncharted territory. The balance between national needs and scientific discovery is a delicate one that China will need to navigate as it continues to push for dominance in science and technology.

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