SYDNEY — China’s science and technology sector has been surging forward rapidly over the past decade, according to a leading Australian scientist.
Professor Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at the University of New South Wales told Xinhua in a recent interview that specific examples, such as the BeiDou navigation satellite system, demonstrate China’s strong commitment to science.
“In the last few decades we’ve seen significant advancements coming out of China,” Dempster said.
“For a long time GPS and GLONASS were the only satellite navigation systems around, but now the BeiDou system coming out of China is growing very rapidly.”
Dempster said the satellite system, currently serving the Asian region, will be ready for global deployment soon, utilizing the BeiDou-2 and BeiDou-3 satellites.
“It’s been quite a rapid deployment, and it is very impressive the way China has gone about doing that.”
Although satellite navigation is Dempster’s area of specific expertise, he is well versed in space technology, and is very impressed with recent technological advances coming out of China’s space sector.
“A couple of things that happened last year, the one that is of particular interest to us, and is really a world first, is the Quantum communications satellite,” Dempster said.
“I think it may have caught some Western observers a little bit by surprise that China is able to launch that experiment.”
Dempster said the satellite, which makes “perfectly secure” communications possible, had previously only been possible in the theoretical realm, which China’s scientists have now made a reality.
China’s space program was another aspect of the science and technology surge that had Dempster excited, with the space mission late last year witnessing two Chinese astronauts return from space after a 33 day stay on the Tiangong-2 space lab, demonstrating China’s strong space program.
“It was very impressive that the astronauts were able to stay up there for one month,” Dempster said.
“It is evident that the Chinese space program is in a very healthy state.”
Dempster attributes part of China’s strong growth in science to education, with significant progress being made in not only sending students abroad to study, but through partnerships with global universities, partnerships that saw Dempster himself teach in China.
“Twice I’ve been to Beijing to run courses on satellite navigation at Beihang University,” Dempster said.
The commitment to education, Dempster said, occurs not only at the university level, but is supported by the work done by the Chinese Government to nurture the burgeoning sector.
“There is a good recognition at the top level of government of the value of the knowledge economy,” Dempster said.
“When you have commitment at the government level to developing science, a good commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in high schools and junior schools bodes very well for the progress of science.”
In terms of the future, Dempster envisions even further progress by scientists in China, and believes China based researchers may receive the highest global recognition for their rapid advancements.
“I don’t see any reason why a Chinese scientist would not win a Nobel Prize,” Dempster said.
“China has shown strong commitment to the development of science. I see only positive developments for science in China for at least the next decade.”