IN THE past 50 years, collaborative effort between India and China in the fields of science and technology (S&T) has been slow. There are talks of forming a roadmap to future cooperation in the field of nanotechnology, biotechnology, genomics, metrology and bamboo technology, but the progress in the field of basic sciences has been minimal. This is despite the fact that the world’s two emerging economies have skilled manpower and necessary infrastructure.
Top Chinese scientists, including project director of Neutron Spallation Source Centre proposed in Guan Tong province Dr Wei Jie and septuagenarian former president of Peking University and National Science Foundation of China
Dr Chen Jiaer, are in the City to participate in the fourth Asian Particle Accelerator Conference at Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology. They spoke to Padma Shastri on how the two countries can compete with the best in scientific field. Excerpts:
Where does India stand in comparison to China vis-à-vis former’s nuclear capabilities? India is lagging behind in research on semi conductors though China has made headway in this regard.
Dr Chen: It is difficult to draw comparison. When India set up its first nuclear power plant in 1956, we didn’t have any. You have produced eminent scientists that are respected the world over. But instead of comparing, we want closer collaboration with India, especially in the field of basic sciences. We are working closely with Japan and Korea and we want similar ties with India.
The two countries share a long cultural history — there are many commonalities. More importantly, a close relationship between India and China is important to keep peace in Asia. That will add to world’s prosperity.
And which are those commonalities?
Dr Jie: Our capacity to build big scientific projects on low cost. Apart from the skilled manpower, the labour rate of the two countries is inexpensive compared to US and Europe. That is why we could dream of setting up the next generation spallation neutron source in China. It would cost us less than 0.2 billion dollars though the same project will cost 1.4 billion dollars in US and 1.5 billion dollars in Japan.
The biggest issue before advanced nations is that they are unable to cut down cost while building scientific facilities. By training more scientists and the inexpensive skilled labour available, we can do wonders. US and Europe are still talking to bring about cost effectiveness but India and China have done it. Besides, people in both the countries are hard working and have a strong will to excel.
What steps has China taken in the transfer of technology to industry?
Dr Jie: We have begun the process and the results are showing. Our customs office people are increasingly using the laser technology for detection of drugs. We have been able to control drug smuggling in a big way within the country through application of science. The other countries have sought our expertise in this regard. But still a lot needs to be done.
What steps are being taken to propagate the basics of science among people?
Dr Chen: As the president of Beijing Association of Science and Technology, I can say that we are taking science to students and villages in China.
Our science volunteers go to villages, stay there and explain people about the judicious use of water, adopting right irrigation methods to avoid its wastage.
They provide tips on recycling solid waste, harnessing wind and solar energy and on making cooking and warming gas (to run heaters in winter) from sewerage.
There are science and technology associations at province, municipal and even village levels. We will now focus on the western part of our country because it is poor and backward.