Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, visited China for the first time from 12-17 September. Rapela Zaman accompanied him on the visit, and will be reporting on the outcomes over the next few weeks.
Liu Yandong is a very busy woman. Her responsibilities or ’burdens’ as she described them as a Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China to Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society , cover education, science, sport, culture, health, family planning, press, radio, film, television, ethics and religious affairs. Policies under her remit affects the lives of millions across China (300 million students, 200 million over 60s…). Yet she took time out to meet Paul Nurse last week in Beijing, their third meeting in two years.
It would be better, she said, if science could help relieve some of her burdens. If the UK and Chinese scientific communities can work together on food security, climate change, shortage of resources and environmental pollution this would be good, not only for our respective countries, but also for well-being around the world.
Science and technology, she said will be needed in every aspect of government policy from employment, health, education, housing, care for the elderly in order to improve people’s lives and livelihoods. Per capita GDP in China is 6500 USD – placing China around 84th in the world. 250 million have been lifted out of poverty but the UN estimate that 200 million people in China are still living under the poverty line. Improving livelihoods we were told is, a top priority for China and integral to delivering Xi Jinping’s China Dream; the revival of the Chinese nation through education, employment and better living conditions for a better quality of life.
And Paul’s response to all this? He said, “I also have a dream; that science will improve our understanding of the world, but that it will also make it a better world for us to live in. I also dream that we should improve and increase collaboration between the UK and China.”
There are high hopes for UK/China science relations. The UK fares well in scientific relations with China (the UK leads within Europe and is third only to the US and Japan in co-authorship of scientific papers). And yet the view from the top Chinese science and technology leadership is that more could be done. The question for the UK now is how and what next?
For all you mandarin speakers out there – you can see CCTV coverage of the meeting here.