BBC The World Tonight Interview

I’m a fan of Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’, as when I was doing my PhD, this used to be the programme that I fell asleep with! (But nowadays, I listen to almost everything through Pocket Casts which blurs the timeline of all programmes).

It was great to be interviewed on this programme and to have a conversation with Emily Weinstein at Georgetown University on the impact of US-China political tension over science. In my view, Miscommunication, misunderstanding even skepticisms are just a natural part of international dialogue, and politics has always been part of modern science. So the real question is when mistrust happens, do we try to mitigate it or do we want to promote it,  capitalise it for short-term gain and at what social cost? In the first week of October, the Guardian published an opinion piece by a Chinese postdoc at Yale. The article lamented on the increased Western bias towards China, and how makes it difficult for average Americans to see the Chinese people not as a threat but as real people. The article makes a very pertinent point. But the real sad thing is that similar things could be said about the rigid and hostile image Chinese media is building about the West. This political tit-for-tat is really counterproductive. China’s engagement with global science has become an intricate balancing act between advocating inclusiveness while asserting a China-centric vision.

According to the OECD’s 2020 data, China has a pool of 1.12 million full-time equivalent researchers is nearly as big as the European Union’s and exceeds that of the United States. In an age where we need to address global challenges scientifically and collectively, one needs to re-calculate the cost of widening distrust between China and the world, not just the US

But China also needs to bear in mind that leaders are not loners. More importantly, the fast development of many if not most of its scientific programmes heavily rely on overseas returns. This is a reminder of a capacity gap China has yet to address to sustain original science and innovation, It also says a lot about how critical international engagement is to any country’s scientific success.

You can listen to the full conversation here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0010gks (from 36:00 to the end)

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