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Conference to assess China's international science, technology relations

March 26, 2014

A first-of-its kind conference examining the role of China’s evolving international science and technology relationships will take place April 3-4 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.

The conference, called “The Evolving Role of Science and Technology in China’s International Relations,” hopes to enable a more thorough understanding of the multiple dimensions of China’s external science and technology collaborations, and develop deeper appreciation for how China’s cooperative global ties in key science and technology fields are contributing to progress internally.

“In addition to participating in a vibrant bilateral relationship with the United States regarding science and technology, China shares similar collaborative associations with other countries,” said Denis Simon, vice provost of ASU’s Office of International Strategic Initiatives and one of the world's leading experts on science, technology and innovation in China. “Through this conference, we are hoping to get a comprehensive view and understand how all these relationships affect China’s science and technology development, and how China will shape the international research and development system in the coming years.”

Since the introduction of economic reform in 1978, China has been steadily expanding its bilateral and multilateral collaborations in science and technology-related fields. The Asian giant recently surpassed the European Union on a key criterion of innovation by dedicating approximately two percent of its gross domestic product to research and development. Based on recent data from R&D Magazine, this makes China the second largest spender on research and development in the world, behind the U.S.

According to Simon, the conference will be organized into four parts. The first will examine the strategic drivers of China’s international science and technology policy and strategy. The conference will then scrutinize China’s relationships with specific countries – industrially advanced and others – to observe similar and unique patterns of interaction.

Another focus area would be major global science and technology topics, including climate change, clean energy, changing patterns of technology transfer and global intellectual property issues.

Lastly, the meeting will aim to contextualize the aforementioned discussions and explore various scenarios to understand the impact of China becoming a global science and technology superpower (or not), and the joining of forces of People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong into a bigger entity called “the Greater China science and technology zone.”

Participants will converge at ASU from agencies and universities all over the world, including China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the China Science and Technology Exchange Center, the University of Nottingham, Tsinghua University and United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“International collaboration has been an essential part of China's science and technology development, and will play an even more important role in the future,” said Xue Lan, professor and dean of Tsinghua University’s School of Public Policy and Management in Beijing, China. “The conference on this theme at ASU provides a rare opportunity for leading scholars and practitioners from China and overseas to analyze China's effort so far and what China can do in the future. I am excited about the conference and look forward to a stimulating and engaging event.”

Engagement with China will serve as a model for ASU to form more meaningful, cooperative relationships focused on collaborative R&D, as well as student training, according to Simon, who is one of only 12 foreign experts recently commissioned by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology to assist in the first comprehensive midterm review of China's 15 Year Medium-to-Long-Term Science and Technology Plan (2006-2020).

“ASU hopes to deepen and broaden science and technology ties with China,” said Simon. “We are home to approximately 2,500 Chinese undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to launching special accelerated international degree programs, we also have a joint Center for American Culture in partnership with Sichuan University in Chengdu city. ASU is also host to a very active Confucius Institute that serves as a platform for teaching Chinese language and culture.

“The focus on China is no more synonymous with the availability of cheap labor; instead, the spotlight increasingly is on Chinese brainpower. Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to talk largely about the so-called 'threat' posed by China to the West, but to the more informed, the rise of China presents a strategic opportunity for the U.S. to form important partnerships for addressing critical global challenges.”