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″If we look at history, southern China, especially Canton, has always been the cradle of innovative ideas ″

″If we look at history, southern China, especially Canton, has always been the cradle of innovative ideas ″

How did science develop in China today? China is a great economic power, but it is also an increasingly great scientific and technological power. Can you tell me about the Chinese scientific tradition?
In the history of Chinese civilization, the state made its contributions in the field of science – the compass, gunpowder, etc. Historically, the Industrial Revolution did not start in China, of course, and I think in the last 100 or 200 years, in terms of scientific contributions, the country has not kept pace with the Western world. I think this has something to do with the historical development of China. If the state is not politically stable and more open to the scientific issues of the West and the way in which it has developed scientifically in the past two centuries, it is more complex.

You say that during the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing dynasty, especially after the nineteenth, nineteenth century, did the West become scientifically ahead of China?
Yes, because of the Industrial Revolution. If we read Joseph Needham, a professor at the University of Cambridge, entitled Science and Civilization in China, we get an idea of ​​our ancient contributions to science. During the Qing Dynasty, China at first was very important economically at the global level, but then the dynasty began to close, there was no opening and no changes, and in the West the Industrial Revolution began. Newton and astronomy appeared, the scientific method. Mathematics and physics developed. So, in the last 200 years we can see a great western development. Then, in China, since 1911, already in the republican period, they began to send students to the United States, to Europe, and especially to the United Kingdom, for training. Thus the first famous Chinese scholars of the 20th century were trained in Europe and the United States.

Do you think that after the seventies, with the policy of economic reforms, China returned to competition again in this field?
I think it is not easy to do science in the midst of political and economic instability. I would say that over the past 200 years the Western world has advanced a lot in science and technology, and I don’t think this is open to debate.

But at present, China that has achieved stability, managed to put man in space, is a nuclear power … Do you think that the science of the country is progressing again?
Yes, I think the research in China, in certain areas, has developed a lot. This can be seen in the publications. And it is evident in the infrastructure: the Three Gorges Dam, for example, or our highway network. We have advanced a lot in energy, in high speed transportation. I think we in China solve many of our problems using science and technology. However, I think we also recognize that, as a country, we have to do more basic research and that’s why the Department of Education and the Department of Science and Technology have made a significant investment in basic research in recent years. That’s because they realized that if you want to make any significant progress and lead in science and technology — of course we can send a rocket to the Moon, to Mars, to space missions — you have to invest seriously in basic research. China has high expectations for the future, not only as a power, but also as a very strong country in science and technology. I think it will not be very easy and I think this is not yet fully recognized, it takes a lot of work in the system of education and international exchange and the spirit of free exchange of ideas. All this is important.

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Do you think it is necessary for China to develop the science that there are these links with other countries and also this exchange of ideas?
I think science knows no boundaries. I think that is the reason for the strength of the United States. I lived 11 years in the US, trained there and was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The strength of the United States is free exchange and the best brains in the world go there, because science has no boundaries and it brings people together. It is the best policy to encourage scientific research. So I think China is investing a lot of money in basic research. At present, in the Greater Bay Area – Canton – Hong Kong – Macau, etc., there are nine cities and two special administrative regions – we conduct basic research related to the contribution to innovation, that is, it is fundamental research, but also with a purpose. So there’s a bit of integration here, as the Greater Bay Area is the second largest economy in the world and is set to be Asia’s Silicon Valley.

Can we say that the Greater Bay Area is the region where there is more and more advanced science in China?
I wouldn’t say that. I think this is where China would like to build an international center for technological innovation. They already have a center in Beijing and in Shanghai as well, I think now they want to move forward in the Greater Bay Area.