16 Scientists From China To Watch

The Asian superpower is boosting basic research funding in its 13th five-year plan—a boon for this list of scientists and the wider R&D community.

AsianScientist (Sep. 9, 2016) – Over the next five years, China will be going into R&D in a big way. The country seeks to invest heavily in science and technology over this period, boosting science spending by 9.1 percent this year to 271 billion yuan (US$41 billion), according to its 13th five-year plan which was unveiled in March 2016.

Among the priority areas for funding are quantum communications and computation; industrial, medical and military robots; deep space exploration; and a new Arctic observatory. Lofty or not, these ambitions show that China’s economic slowdown has not dampened its desire to innovate.

Below, you will find 16 award-winning Chinese scientists who have been contributing in a significant way to their respective fields and further fueling China’s thriving science and technology industry.

  1. Li Jiayang

    Li Jiayang credit ASBMB

    Li was elected a foreign member of the UK’s Royal Society in 2015 for establishing forward genetics approaches in rice, which have led to the development of improved rice varieties.

    (Photo: Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology)

  2. Zhang Fusuo

    Zhang Fusuo credit IHB

    Zhang received The World Academy of Sciences 2014 prize in the agricultural sciences for establishing the principle and technology of integrated nutrient management in China.

    (Photo: Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

  3. Tu Youyou

    Tu Youyou Credit CACMS

    Tu, a traditional Chinese medicine expert, received one half of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing an anti-malarial drug, artemisinin, based on ancient herbal medicine. Tu is the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

    Artemisinin rapidly kills malaria parasites at an early stage of their development, which explains its unprecedented potency in the treatment of severe malaria. When used in combination therapy, artemisinin is estimated to reduce mortality from malaria by more than 20 percent overall and by more than 30 percent in children.

    (Photo: China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine)

  4. Zhang Feng


    A pioneer in the sizzling new field of genome editing, Zhang has developed accurate and specific genome editing technology for application in eukaryotic cells—including human cells—from natural microbial CRISPR systems. Awards have come aplenty, with the 2015 Robertson Stem Cell Prize, Cell’s “40 under 40” in 2014, and MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies in 2014.

    Before CRISPR, Zhang was also widely recognized for developing another breakthrough technology called optogenetics, in which neuronal activity can be controlled with light.

    (Photo: Len Rubenstein/Broad Institute Communications)

  5. Yang Yuanqing

    37 Yang Yuanqing Credit Natalie Behring from WEF

    Yang, chairman and CEO of Lenovo Group, received the Edison Achievement Award 2014 for helping to grow the PC manufacturer into a global technology leader.

    (Photo: Natalie Behring, World Economic Forum)

  6. Xie Yi

    Xie Yi Credit L'Oreal

    Xie was honored with a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award in 2015 for creating new nanomaterials with promising applications in the conversion of heat or sunlight into electricity.

    (Photo: L’Oréal)

  7. Chen Xianhui

    Chen Xianhui Credit USTC

    Chen received the 2015 Bernd T. Matthias Prize for discovering new materials for superconducting studies.

    (Photo: University of Science and Technology of China)

  8. Yang Chen Ning

    Yang Chen Ning Credit CUHK

    Yang received a 2015 Marcel Grossman Award for deepening Einstein’s geometrical approach to physics in the best tradition of Paul Dirac and Hermann Weyl.

    (Photo: Chinese University of Hong Kong)

  9. Yuan Yaxiang

    67 Yuan Yaxiang Credit Yuan Yaxiang

    Yuan received The World Academy of Sciences 2014 prize in mathematics for developing numerical methods for nonlinear optimization.

    (Photo: Yuan Yaxiang)

  10. Zong Chuanming

    68 Zong Quanming Credit American Mathematical Society

    Zong was co-awarded the 2015 Levi L. Conant Prize by the American Mathematical Society for his article, “Mysteries in Packing Regular Tetrahedra.”

    (Photo: American Mathematical Society)

  11. Gao Huijun

    71 Gao Huijun Credit University of Auckland

    Thomson Reuters named Gao as one of the most influential scientific minds in 2014 for publishing many “hot papers” that year.

    (Photo: University of Auckland)

  12. Tan Tieniu

    88 Tan Tieniu Credit CAS

    Tan’s work into computer vision and pattern recognition helped him get elected as an international fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014.

    (Photo: Center for Biometrics and Security Research)

  13. Bai Chunli

    89 Bai Chunli Credit World Academy of Sciences

    Bai, a nanotechnology pioneer and president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was elected a foreign member of the UK’s Royal Society in 2014.

    (Photo: The World Academy of Sciences)

  14. Yang Ke

    90 Yang Ke Credit Peking University

    Yang, the executive vice president of Peking University, won the 2015 Prince Mahidol Award for reforming research and medical education in China.

    (Photo: Peking University)

  15. Li Jinghai

    93 Li Jinghai Credit EMMS Group

    In 2014, the vice-president of CAS was elected as one of two vice-presidents of the International Council for Science, a nongovernmental organization representing 122 national scientific bodies and 31 international scientific unions.

    (Photo: EMMS Group)

  16. Wang Yifang

    Wang Yifang Credit Chinese Academy of Sciences

    For leading a large international collaboration that carried out the Daya Bay neutrino oscillation experiment in China, Wang received the 2015 Nikkei Asia Prize in the science, technology and environment category.

    (Photo: Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

  17. ———

    Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Shutterstock.
    Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Coming from a design background, Filzah brings a fresh perspective to science communications. She is particularly interested in healthcare and technology.

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