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Why China Won't Win A Science Nobel Prize Anytime Soon

"China can more or less manufacture anything, but the core technologies belong to other people."
"China can more or less manufacture anything, but the core technologies belong to other people."
Zhang Ming

BEIJING — The Chinese authorities have recently introduced a “Ten Thousand Talents Support Program,” a nationwide project for selecting outstanding talent in all areas of scientific and technological innovation. Among those, 100 people would be identified as potential Nobel Prize winners.

Similar programs, equally generous and costly, have been put in place before. But regrettably, none has resulted in a Chinese Nobel Prize in the scientific disciplines.

Applying a nationwide promotion mechanism does have its advantages. For instance, China achieved striking success in the Olympics, even in sports categories that many Chinese people had never heard of before. It also worked when applied to defense technology. In the 1970s, China developed “Two Bombs and one Star,” project (also known as the “Atom Bomb, Superatomic Bomb and Satellite” project) with the same method. Nevertheless, whether it’s the former Soviet Union or China, trying to build up a country’s basic sciences this way has achieved few results.

To put it plainly, scientific research must be founded on a supporting national education and scientific system. When China focused all its efforts in overcoming the difficulties of making the “Two Bombs and One Star,” it depended on the talented people who had studied in the West before the Chinese Communist Party came to power. Even if the government had invested a lot of money and energy, it would have been impossible to achieve the goal under China’s backward conditions at that time without this personnel. Consider North Korea. With all its strength, it has yet to come up with a presentable atomic bomb and rocket.

Winning a Nobel Prize isn’t about taking down a bunker. No matter how strong the fortress and the enemy are, as long as a death squad exists, their death-defying force still has a great chance to bring down a fortress.

But winning the Nobel Prize relies on, in essence, the overall strength of a country's scientific research. So far, in terms of natural sciences, the countries that win are all, without exception, the world’s most powerful nations in education and scientific research. Laureates of Nobel Prizes in Third World countries are in general only in the literary field.

Productive but not profound

China is a large country gaining development momentum. It now has the world’s second largest gross domestic product. But we can’t be too optimistic about its scientific research capabilities just yet. China’s GDP basically comes from the blood and sweat of migrant workers. China can more or less manufacture anything, but the core technologies belong to other people.

A nation’s scientific strength is closely related to its education. Chinese-style education has a standard-answer formula. Good Chinese high school pupils would be excellent in solving difficult problems or winning awards in the Olympiad Competition, a Chinese middle school academic match. But those students would have no chance whatsoever of winning Nobel Prizes after obtaining a doctorate and working in a Chinese research environment. That’s because the Chinese scientific system is just like its education system — full of bad projects and generally led by administrators.

In short, raising a country’s scientific strength and technological competitiveness can’t possibly count on a short-term rapid promotion program, nor can it be achieved just by bringing in talent from other rich countries. Were China’s goal really to win Nobel Prizes, its relevant governmental departments would reform its education and scientific systems. The mindset of directing education and science with administrative power — the idea that power means knowledge — ought to be changed first.

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Murdoch's Resignation Adds To Biden Good Luck With The Media — A Repeat Of FDR?

Robert Murdoch's resignation from Fox News Corp. so soon before the next U.S. presidential elections begs the question of how directly media coverage has impacted Joe Biden as a figure, and what this new shift in power will mean for the current President.

Close up photograph of a opy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run

July 7, 2011 - London, England: A copy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run July 11, 2011 amid a torrid scandal involving phone hacking.

Mark Makela/ZUMA
Michael J. Socolow

Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America on Jan. 20, 2021.

Imagine if someone could go back in time and inform him and his communications team that a few pivotal changes in the media would occur during his first three years in office.

There’s the latest news that Rubert Murdoch, 92, stepped down as the chairperson of Fox Corp. and News Corp. on Sept. 21, 2023. Since the 1980s, Murdoch, who will be replaced by his son Lachlan, has been the most powerful right-wing media executivein the U.S.

While it’s not clear whether Fox will be any tamer under Lachlan, Murdoch’s departure is likely good news for Biden, who reportedly despises the media baron.

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