Recently, China has created nearly simultaneous miracles covering the sea, land, and air. Its deep-sea manned submersible, Fendouzhe (Striver), successfully landed on the bottom of the Mariana Trench at a depth of 10,909 metres; Hualong One, the first Chinese-developed nuclear reactor unit, was connected to the grid, meaning that China is officially one of the countries with advanced nuclear technology; and the Chang'e 5 probe landed on the moon, showing China's strength in space technology.
As the world continues to struggle with the impact of the coronavirus, China is making great strides in technology. NASA tweeted: “With Chang’e 5, China has launched an effort to join the U.S. & the former Soviet Union in obtaining lunar samples. We hope China shares its data with the global scientific community to enhance our understanding of the Moon like our Apollo missions did & the Artemis program will.” Chinese media saw this as “arrogance with a tinge of sour grapes”.
Considering the obstacles that the US has put in China's way in space technology exchanges, and its containment of China's tech companies in recent years, it is clearly not true to say that the US is happy to see China's new strides in technology.
Technological innovation will create cascades in rule of law and IP
The fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party clearly stated the aim of upholding the central role of innovation in its modernisation drive and implementing an innovation-driven strategy. And so, China will continue to catch up in technology and try to break the Western monopoly in the sector. Western developed countries including the US need to change their perspective. In fact, China's technological advancements are also good for the West.
If the US really wants China to be able to be strict about IP protection, it should encourage China's tech innovation even more.
For example, China's strong push in technological innovation will also lead to improved rule of law in China. The US has criticised China for not prioritising the protection of intellectual property (IP), leading to lack of protection for IP rights of US sophisticated technologies. But the US’s moves to block many China-US technology projects as a result is short-sighted.
If the US really wants China to be able to be strict about IP protection, it should encourage China's tech innovation even more. The reason is clear: under market economy conditions, spurring tech innovation requires strict IP protection which in turn facilitates the improvement of other related laws, such as the trial and judiciary process. Improvements in China's IP protection and other areas would in effect create a more conducive environment for Western companies to enter China as the world's biggest market, which would be good for them.
Spur democracy and the taking up of international responsibilities
Moreover, China's tech innovation efforts would also drive improvements in democracy in China, because democracy and science are in fact twins. Two often-chanted slogans by educated elites during China's May Fourth Movement were “science” on the one hand and ”democracy” on the other, showing that even at that time, the Chinese knew that scientific development and democratic progress are interlinked.
With a greater wealth of online information technology, there would be more diversity of information and expression, which would strengthen democratic consciousness and maturity, and drive democratic progress.
Without democratic progress, there can be no openness or freedom of thought, which also means that people would not be able to give full play to their intellect and explore unknown fields, and scientific advancement would be stifled.
Conversely, if there is constant technological progress, where science is followed and thinking is encouraged, there would be more freedom of thought and independence of spirit. With a greater wealth of online information technology, there would be more diversity of information and expression, which would strengthen democratic consciousness and maturity, and drive democratic progress. So, if Western developed countries want a more democratic and open China, it should be happy to see China catching up in tech innovation.
China's push in tech innovation would also encourage China to take on greater international responsibilities. China cannot engage in scientific research behind closed doors. If it wants to stimulate its own tech innovation, it would need to encourage international exchange and cooperation. This would also get China to take its domestic governance responsibilities more seriously.
Good for China, good for the world
From another perspective, China’s rise in science and technology would put it in a better position to assume more international responsibilities. For example, if China achieves relevant technological breakthroughs in tackling carbon emissions, the world’s efforts to reduce global warming would be given a huge lift. Besides, we need not look very far at all — due to the advancement of China’s biomedical field, China has taken an early lead in Covid-19 vaccine research and development, helping to bring a new ray of hope to the world.
By relying on technological advancements, China would not need to rely on external expansions to feed its growing population and grant them a richer and happier life.
China’s push for technological innovation also helps to alleviate the strategic anxiety of developed Western countries, and shape a more sustainable and prosperous international order. For example, if China manages to solve various challenges such as food production and energy resources through its own technological advancements, it would not take up too much international resources even if its economy continues to develop.
By relying on technological advancements, China would not need to rely on external expansions to feed its growing population and grant them a richer and happier life. It could in turn contribute to the international supply of food and energy. This would benefit humankind and remove concerns over the “China threat" theory or “China collapse" theory. Developed Western countries would also not need to worry about competing with China over global resources and instead hope for mutual benefits and win-win scenarios.
Observably, if Western countries including the US have the right attitude and are far-sighted, they would be able to view China’s rise in science and technology in a more rational and positive light. Instead of containing and suppressing China’s rise, Western countries should support it instead.
In fact, Western countries and China should rid themselves of a zero-sum bias in the technological realm and forge a win-win mindset to jointly propel human technology to greater heights. Technology should also be used to grow and strengthen wealth and resources so that everyone can benefit from China’s technological innovation and build a true “community with a shared future for mankind”, which is in the interest of the world.
China should better tell the story of its technological advancement and highlight how these could also help contribute to international society and all mankind.
China would do well to tone down its own nationalistic rhetoric
Undoubtedly, this does not mean that China does not need to improve itself. In the past, for example, whenever major improvements or breakthroughs were made in the technological field, certain Chinese media would habitually associate them with national revival and prosperity. More importantly, they would often highlight that China is catching up with and surpassing Western countries in technology. To people in foreign countries, especially those in Western countries, this may seem as if China’s aim of technological advancement is to defeat developed Western countries and further its nationalistic aims, which is not conducive to creating an atmosphere that welcomes China's scientific and technological progress in the world, especially in Western countries.
At the same time, foreign research talents may worry about coming to China to engage in research exchanges, resulting in China losing top research talents from around the world. Naturally, this would help the governments and capitalists of the US and other hegemonic countries gain support from public opinion, and even some scientists, for their continued curtailment and suppression of China’s technological progress.
China should better tell the story of its technological advancement and highlight how these could also help contribute to international society and all mankind. It should also focus on IP protection while facilitating and expanding open exchanges to bring in top research talents from across the globe and gain more understanding and support.
In terms of Covid-19 vaccine research and development, China has done well — it clearly expressed its willingness to make its vaccines global public goods once successfully developed so that they may benefit the world. By doing so, countries such as the US and some other capitalists would not have an excuse to attack and contain China.
At present, the US has also blocked Huawei’s leading technologies in the 5G realm. But if China applies the same wisdom regarding its Covid-19 vaccines to its advancements in 5G technology — that is, that it would share them with international society on more favourable terms to promote global information technology advancement — it would become difficult for the US’s containment and suppression efforts to succeed.
In the long term, this will eventually help China’s science and technology standards gain more international recognition and acceptance, and help Chinese tech companies expand in international markets. This is a win-win for China and the world, and also meets the requirement of building a community with shared future for mankind in science and technology.
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