Culture, Corporate and Business (CCB) Seminar Series
at the UK Campus of PHBS
China’s Rise: Strategies for Excellence in Research
Prof Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik
Department of East Asian Studies
University of Vienna, Austria
2 May 2019
100 years ago, Peking University students initiated the May Fourth Movement to explore a way to change China. The movement promoted science and democracy for the Nation. To mark the 100-year anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, on Thursday 2 May 2019 in the first overseas campus of Peking University, Univ.-Prof. Dr Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik from the Department of East Asian Studies of the University of Vienna, Austria gave an honorarium to Peking University students on whether China can lead science research in the world, extending a discussion on the role of science in transforming China. Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik shared her critical review over five strategies employed by China to improve its international excellence in research of science as a part of soft power building for the Nation.
The first strategy that Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik identified was how Chinese institutions and organisations use cash incentives to increase publications, especially in high profile journals amongst Chinese researchers. However, she cautioned that such a method is highly controversial and must be exercised with care as it potentially opens the possibility of fraud within the academic community and that affects the integrity of academic work.
The second strategy that Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrizk identified was how China is working towards increasing the number of universities among the top 100. In order to do that, Chinese universities would need to hire more international staff and increase the professor to student ratio. This is beneficial to Chinese universities as it makes them more competitive on the international stage. However, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik warned that if this strategy is misused, the potential drawback would be that in this ranking competition, only universities with affluent funding can be successful. In addition, moving researchers from one university to another based purely on increasing one’s reputation, is a very costly affair and usually, it would not generate many positive results. This is because the money is spent only to enhance the universities’ position in the rankings, but it doesn’t enhance the quality of research.
The third strategy that Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrizk identified was that China’s R&D spending is integrated into its developmental strategy as China aims to spend 2.5% of its GDP on R&D. In this respect, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik noted that China is striving for a change in position in the international value chain from earning money as the work bank for international companies and being an innovation follower, to earning money as an international innovation leader. China’s advantage is that it can build its strategy on widespread acceptance of new technologies amongst the population and it can spend on education because education is traditionally accepted as the most legitimate and successful path towards upward mobility. Prof Weigelin-Schwiedrzik noted that this is by far China’s most successful strategy because China’s universities are expanding and making use of the demographic advantage. In addition, China’s capacity in terms of innovation makes the country more attractive to researchers from all over the world, especially for Chinese researchers who are ready to return to China. This is particularly advantageous for China because as Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik states emphatically, attracting researchers from around the world helps raise its position in international ranking and thus creating a significant impact for China-based research.
As for the fourth strategy, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik identified that China’s success is rooted in its uncanny ability to identify niche research areas with quick and visible results. Case in point is China’s investment in flagship projects in science, the most successful being brain research. Brain research is integrated into China’s national science plan even though China does not have a tradition of doing brain research. However, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik cautioned, flagship projects may help China create an international impact, but they must be launched carefully in order to avoid a negative impact on China’s international image as a science powerhouse.
Last but not least, the final factor as identified by Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik to be influencing China’s success is its investment in developing researchers in the humanities and social sciences. From 2001 to 2012, the number of researchers working in the humanities and the social sciences developed from 261,174 to 482,050, and the number of SSCI indexed publications published in English rose from 64 in 1978 to 8014 in 201t. 55% of all English language articles on China are authored by Chinese academics and Chinese authors dominate the discourse on what is China.
In conclusion, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik emphasized that science and research is a great power strategy because whichever country that claims great power status, it must prove its power not only economically and militarily, but also in terms of its scientific excellence. Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik also stressed that science and research are embedded in the process of globalization because the science and research market is the most globalized market of all goods and resources.
All in all, Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik gave a very interesting and engaging talk about how China rose to be the international powerhouse in research, development, and academia. Again, the CCB executives are very honoured to have her give them such valuable and personal insight into the administrative aspect of higher education. They enjoyed learning from her and exchanging ideas with her. PHBS-UK and CCB look forward to having Prof. Weigelin-Schwiedrzik share her ideas with us again.
(Report by Dr Carryn Yong. Edited by Guy Liu and Zoë Toone. Photos by Zoë Toone.)
|Last modified: 2019-05-16 12:31:55 by Zoe Toone||Created at: 2019-05-16 10:11:07|