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China Daily: Experts hail Xi's speech on basic sciences
Update time: 02/24/2023
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Strengthening capabilities in fields seen as key to making big sci-tech advances 

Chinese scientists are deeply encouraged by President Xi Jinping's call to enhance basic research and be self-reliant in critical technologies. Experts said sustained support for basic sciences, stronger talent training and science popularization efforts, and greater international cooperation would be conducive to achieving the goal.

Strengthening basic research is the only way to turn China into a global scientific and technological powerhouse, said Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee. He made the comments on Tuesday when chairing the third group study session of the Political Bureau of the 20th CPC Central Committee.

Xi highlighted the importance of enhancing international cooperation in science and technology. He also called for Chinese scientists to participate in the global governance of science-related topics, and contribute more to the progress of human civilization.

Liu Zhongmin, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, said Xi's speech has elevated the importance of basic sciences to new heights. "As a scientist, I am deeply motivated, but I also feel a strong sense of duty," he said.

"China's development and rejuvenation depends on achieving greater self-reliance and strength in science and technology," Liu said. "Simply optimizing traditional technologies can no longer support China's socioeconomic growth. If we want to make original breakthroughs, we have to strengthen basic research."

Zhang Xinrong, a professor at the College of Engineering of Peking University, said that in recent years, China has made incredible progress in science and technology, with some areas becoming global front-runners.

"Only by strengthening basic sciences, the source of innovation, can we truly take the initiative in scientific and technological progress and not be limited by other factors," he said.

For instance, during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, China was the first country to use carbon dioxide as a natural refrigerant for producing ice for the skating arena, resulting in higher-quality ice with less impact on the climate, compared with ice produced by using the toxic and environmentally damaging Freon gas.

This new carbon dioxide cooling technology would not have been possible without key breakthroughs in basic sciences such as supercritical fluid flow dynamics and thermodynamics, Zhang said.

Guo Rui, director of the Shaanxi Province Engineering Research Center for Space Breeding, said that solutions to major challenges, such as food insecurity and environmental degradation, must come from breakthroughs in basic sciences.

"Space breeding involves scientists exposing seeds to cosmic radiation and microgravity, with the hopes of creating new plant varieties with favorable traits," he said, adding that scientists are using this method to find better plant varieties that are more suited to conservation projects in northern China.

Deng Tao, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, said basic research is not only important for socioeconomic growth, it can also yield key discoveries with major cultural and historical significance.

By studying ancient relics and DNA sequences, Chinese scientists discovered the close genetic relationship between ancient people from the central Chinese mainland, Taiwan, the Tibet autonomous region and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, thus providing the scientific basis for the concept of the Chinese ethnic community, Deng said.

Guo Huadong, director-general of the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals, said that high-quality international cooperation in science and technology can facilitate basic sciences.

"The Chinese scientific community should proactively establish new global organizations and projects, and utilize international resources to support the development of China's basic sciences," he said.

Zeng Yi, a professor at the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China has engaged with the international community on the development and governance of artificial intelligence by sharing experiences and facilitating the ethical use of AI for sustainable development and the greater good.

Jin Shuanggen, vice-president for academic affairs at Henan Polytechnic University, said he was glad to see State leaders' support for both target-oriented and exploratory research. This would encourage scientists to make more original breakthroughs in basic sciences.

Stronger support for scientists working in basic research and nurturing top science talents and research teams would be critical in achieving self-sufficiency in science and technology, he added.

Wang Yuedan, a professor of immunology at Peking University, said sustained success in basic research requires nurturing a large number of quality scientific talents, an objective that top Chinese universities should carry out effectively.

Yuan Lanfeng, an associate professor at the National Research Center for Microscale Material Science at the University of Science and Technology of China, said that improving science education and public science literacy would allow more people to be interested in science and potentially become scientists.

Tian Sicong, a researcher from the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that scientists working in basic research need to bravely explore uncharted territory in order to discover new insights.

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