China plans to lead major international science projects in climate change, space exploration and neuroscience technologies in the near future, officials said on Jan 24.
Researching the impact of global warming on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, also known as the world’s Third Pole, is vital to understanding climate change, but foreign scientists often have trouble accessing the region, said Cao Jinghua, the director of international cooperation at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
As a result, China plans to incorporate the North and South Poles into its existing Third Pole research, thus allowing China to spearhead a major international research project on all three poles, he said.
“China already has extensive cooperation with other countries in fields that it plans to lead,” he said. For example, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea have been studying weather and the water cycle on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau since 1996, according to the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.
“In recent years, China has increased its basic science research capability and houses many one-of-a-kind advanced pieces of science equipment,” he said. “Therefore many countries are interested in collaborating with China in studying stellar bodies and weather, as well as projects related to the brain and neurosciences.”
These major science projects are closely related to human health and social development, but they are so complex that international cooperation is essential for tackling them, he said.
“China will continue to strengthen cooperation with developed countries,” he said, adding that European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, France and Italy are actively engaged in Chinese science projects and development.
The United States has also been a key partner in Chinese science projects, he said. However, the current US administration has not renewed the Sino-US Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement — the bedrock of Sino-US science diplomacy signed in 1979.
“Science relations are affected by overall national relations, so without the agreement, government-level science cooperation will be severely limited,” Cao said. “But academics are not affected, and Chinese scientists will continue to participate in seminars and exchanges.”
Gao Hongjun, the director of education and frontier science at the academy, said the new projects involve some of the world’s most advanced scientific issues, and the academy will have to create new mechanisms to bring talent from across institutions and disciplines to work together.
“Tough science issues require joint effort from interdisciplinary talent, we will also create platforms for foreign scientists to join our science projects,” Gao said. “Only through global teamwork can we achieve the unachievable.”
Xiang Libin, vice-president of the academy, said that in the next three to five years China will launch new science projects including low orbit surveillance, deep drilling and mining, ecological protection in the South China Sea, and next generation quantum and supercomputers.
For example, some countries can drill 6,000 meters underground, but China can only manage 1,000 meters, “so improving our deep drilling capability can greatly improve our ability to tap into underground resources,” he added.
“These new science projects will greatly benefit our nation’s defense, economy and people’s livelihood,” he said.