China’s Growing Scientific Soft Power

In our October 2014 print magazine, we note that China is taking active steps to extend its scientific influence around the world.

Whether it be through a US$330 million neutrino research facility, experiments on self-sufficiency in space, open access publishing or high impact research output, we can’t help but notice that China is taking active steps to extend its scientific influence around the world.

…in academic thought leadership:

Both the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) have made it mandatory for their researchers to deposit research articles into the open access repositories of their respective institutes within 12 months of publication.

CAS said open access will “facilitate knowledge dissemination and accelerate the globalization of science.” As part of its new policy, the academy has also authorized libraries and information departments to develop detailed open access guidelines in accordance with copyright laws.

…in publication output:

Japan, which is overcoming the impacts of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami with the help of a US$1.8 billion science stimulus package, continues to lead the region in physics, life sciences and earth and environmental sciences.

Although it remains the Asian juggernaut in scientific output, Japan may however be overtaken by second-ranked China within one or two years, according to the Nature Publishing Index (NPI) 2013 Asia Pacific rankings. In addition, CAS has, for the first time, knocked the University of Tokyo off the top spot of the NPI institution rankings.

…to unlocking the mysteries of the neutrino:

China has entered the race to address one of the biggest questions in physics. Researchers at the soon-to-be-built Jiangmen Underground Neutrino Observatory (JUNO) in Guangdong province will work alongside colleagues at the Indian Neutrino Observatory and Japan’s Hyper-Kamiokande, among others, to study the properties of a fundamental particle known as the neutrino.

Neutrinos are electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particles possessing a half-integer spin. Physicists are trying to determine the relative masses of the three different classes of neutrinos, which once understood may have huge implications for physical models of the universe.

The US$330 million facility, which is being built by the CAS Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP), is scheduled for completion in 2020.

…and exploring outer space:

On May 20 this year, three volunteers from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics stepped out of a 500 m3 capsule named “Moon Palace 1” where they had spent the past 105 days. Captain Xie Beizhen and crew members Wang Minjuan and Dong Chen survived on a diet of 15 vegetables, five grain crops, one type of fruit, and yellow mealworms.

Mimicking the Earth’s biosphere, “Moon Palace 1” features a cabin, two plant cultivation labs and a bioregenerative life support module that processes waste, purifies air and produces water and fertilizer. The experiment tested the possibility of astronauts living in space over long periods in a self-sustaining manner.

Now entering the second decade of her manned space program, China has plans for a permanent space station to be operational by 2020.


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Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

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