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Wechat Article: How Can China Win the Sino-US Technology War If the Chinese Academy of Sciences Is in Constant Trouble?

On June 15, 90 out of 180 researchers from the Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology of the Hefei Institute of Material Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences quit their job on the same day. The news topped the search results in China for a number of days. The Chinese Academy of Sciences website announced that Vice Premier Liu He was urged to launch an investigation into the incident. On July 17, the party cell of the Chinese Academy of Sciences formed a special task team and arrived at the Hefei Institute for an on-site investigation. The initial public information suggested that the incident was related to the former head of the Hefei Institute because most of the researchers went to join him at a different nuclear energy and technology research institution called the “Frontier Development of Science (中科凤麟” Tencent posted a question asking for comments on why 90 scientists left the Hefei Institute. One of the answers received most of the “likes.” It stated, “There have been no scientific research achievements there even though the institute has a big name. All you do is flatter other people and run unrelated chores including playing volleyball with the boss. Front-line researchers who want to display their talents don’t have the opportunity. People are sidelined if they do not cater to the leadership. Those who couldn’t stand it all left.”

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of research institutions that have not been able to retain talented people. People often complain about receiving low pay and benefits, lacking career advancement, working under high pressure, having long working hours, and dealing with complicated guanxi (inter-personal networks) and bureaucracy. According to the data from the Minister of Science and Technology, China’s total R&D investment in 2019 was 2.17 trillion yuan (US$0.31 trillion). This accounted for 2.19 percent of GDP, which is roughly equivalent to the EU average. However there have been increases in news reports on mishandling and waste of the R&D funding as well as excessive overhead, which is allocated to support a multi-layer bureaucratic system.

A Wechat article stated that, as Huawei is battling with an Eight-Nation Alliance, the failure rate of rocket launches is significantly higher than it was in the prior year and the U.S. could block jet engine purchases. People are therefore concerned about how China can win the Sino-US technology war if the Chinese Academy of Sciences is in constant trouble.

Source: Wechat, July 21, 2020