On 20 January 2021 newly inaugurated President Biden sent a letter to his science advisor, geneticist Eric Lander, posing five essential questions about how to ensure America’s leadership in science and technology for the next 75 years. The letter deliberately invoked a similar letter sent by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in November 1944 to his science advisor, Dr. Vannevar Bush. Though World War II was far from over, Roosevelt was already starting to look to the future to ensure that the rapid scientific progress made during the war was maintained and directed to address pressing issues at home when peace was achieved. While Roosevelt would not live to see it, the resulting report titled Science—the Endless Frontier, published 75 years before Biden’s letter, would prove to have a lasting impact on American science. Likely seeing a similar epochal set of challenges and opportunities, Biden noted in his letter that it is time to “refresh and reinvigorate our national science and technology strategy to set us on a strong course for the next 75 years, so that our children and grandchildren may inhabit a healthier, safer, more just, peaceful, and prosperous world.” Reflecting on the biggest challenges facing his administration, Biden further noted a pressing need to ensure the United States’ security and leading position in scientific and technological progress in the context of a long-term strategic competition with China, which is making unprecedented investments and striving to “eclipse America’s scientific and technological leadership.
The purpose of this report is to examine and analyze Chinese science policymakers’ and stakeholders’ answer to that question, and the rationales, beliefs, decisions, and struggles that inform their answers. Particularly given the beginning of two important policy phases, the goal of this report is to provide the information and context needed to understand the state of Chinese science today, its priorities for the near future, and an assessment of China’s prospect of becoming “a primary global center for scientific research and an innovation highland.” The analysis in this report focuses on answering the following research questions:
● Are there consistencies or unique national features in China’s national policy for science across planning cycles, administrations, and individual leaders?
● What policy tools to advance scientific and technological development are preferred by Chinese leaders?
● What is the institutional arrangement for the formulation, coordination, and execution of its national science policy?
● What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese approach for advancing science?
● What are the key policy issues facing Chinese policymakers and STI stakeholders today?
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