BY YAN YUNMING
Since China’s Chang’e-4 lunar lander for the first time touched down on the mysterious far side of the moon on January 15, seeds carried by the spacecraft have sprouted, signaling the success of a unique biological experiment on the surface of earth’s only satellite.
Notwithstanding some applause from international society, doubts and concerns about Chinese science and technology that have long haunted the West are once again in the limelight.
Two recent articles in The Economist – “Can China become a scientific superpower?” and “How China could dominate science” – expose such anxieties.
That Chinese science and the political system are tightly coupled is a broad belief. It is speculated that China’s science, differentiated from the West’s, is firmly controlled and marshaled by the government. Such conjectures are groundless.
The boom in Chinese science and technology is surely backed by the country’s policy, but is as well a combination of concerted efforts including thorough education, a large gifted population and massive markets. It is rather narrow to attribute China’s scientific success merely to political elements, while ignoring the others.
The widely used mobile payment service and bicycle sharing, for example, have been initiated by Chinese companies instead of the government. Driven by enormous market demands, a number of technology companies with top scientists and engineers have continuously sprung up. It is the private sector that leads the live-streaming educational platforms, online food delivery services, and many other innovations to change people’s lives.
This is how China works to develop science. In turn, in a world that adopts a different approach, very few countries have the ability to become great scientific powers.
Another speculation says that China uses science to suppress its people. No doubt it is ridiculous.
Artificial intelligence technology like facial recognition has been used by China to bring down crime rate.
Here is a fun fact about Chinese facial recognition. Since April last year, the police have arrested about 60 suspects and fugitives at the concert tour of a renowned Chinese singer, Jacky Cheung, with the help of facial recognition. Nine fugitives were nabbed in one city during his tour of Hefei, Anhui Province.
Originally known as the “Song of God,” Cheung is now titled the “criminal nemesis” by Chinese netizens. He responded to his new title in an interview last October by saying, “Technology is really advanced in our country. Even if not caught in my concerts, those who commit a crime would be arrested elsewhere.”
As science and technology develop, the arm of justice may become really long in China.
Looking at the US though, after over 20 months, the disappearance of Zhang Yingying, a visiting scholar of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has not been solved, which most Chinese consider unimaginably queer.
In addition, there are rising fears in the West about China succeeding in the space race. Especially with the triumph of Chang’e-4, China is becoming a greater threat in the eyes of some Western media outlets.
It is not hard to find an increasing number of Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters with Chinese elements. Among some, Chinese science and technology even play a crucial role in saving the world.
In Gravity, the heroine, played by Sandra Bullock, returns to the earth with the help of Chinese space station Tiangong and Shenzhou spacecraft. In The Martian, Matt Damon loses his companion during his mission to Mars, and is rescued by China’s rocket, the Taiyang Shen. In the disaster film 2012, the Ark made in China served as a global refuge.
Adding Chinese elements may be for the purpose of catering to the Chinese market, but why can’t the scenes take place in reality? Why would China become a threat instead of a helper in the real world?
After Chang’e-4’s landing, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted, “Congratulations to China’s Chang’e-4 team!” Then another NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine described the landing as “an impressive accomplishment”, according to the Guardian.
Moreover, it was reported on January 19 that NASA is about to collaborate with China National Space Administration on a lunar mission. Facts proved that China’s space achievements are worth recognition and can be shared. There is no need for Western tech and media circles to be worried.
Chinese science is not a tool to oppress the people, nor a card to play international games. It can and will really benefit its people and the world.
(The author is a reporter with the Global Times.) ([email protected])