China Focus: China boosts basic research with systematic resolve

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BEIJING, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- China's 2 million Parkinson's disease sufferers are beginning to find dealing with their illness easier and cheaper thanks to pioneering Chinese research in basic science.

Prof. Li Luming, of Tsinghua University, won the top 2019 State Scientific and Technological Progress Award for his research that led to cheaper, smaller, lighter and more durable brain pacemakers for Parkinson's patients.

Prof. Xue Qikun, also of Tsinghua, won last year's State Natural Science Award for pioneering contributions to the quantum anomalous Hall effect, a discovery that will help accelerate the development of low-power consumption electronics.

"China's basic research is under a critical transition from quantity accumulation to a quality leap, and from some breakthroughs to overall capability enhancement," said Xue after receiving the award.

Their work reflected the success of efforts in recent years to boost China's basic science research, building the foundations for a homegrown innovation environment.

Nature Index, which tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 natural science journals, is an indicator of global high-quality research output and collaboration.

Nature Index 2019 shows China is the world's second largest contributor to high-quality scientific research papers.

"We have also seen an important increase in high-quality output, both in terms of impact and influence of the research in question, but also in terms of the rigor with which the work has been carried out," Nature Editor-in-Chief Magdalena Skipper said in an interview with Xinhua last year.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, reforms have driven China on a path of innovation and creative vitality.

In January 2018, the State Council issued a guideline on improving basic research, identifying 20 central tasks to advance basic science research.

Several groundbreaking scientific achievements are expected and China will have many world-leading scientists in about 30 years, said the guideline.

The primary role of basic research in driving productivity and development has been repeatedly highlighted.

At last year's ceremony in Beijing to honor distinguished scientists, engineers and research, the government said basic research should have higher priority and receive more long-term and stable support,

At the 70th founding anniversary of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) last November, the CAS was encouraged to deepen science and technology system reform, create a favorable environment for innovation and lay a solid foundation for basic research.

CAS President Bai Chunli said the CAS will become an important source of innovation through promoting basic research in forefront areas and accelerating breakthroughs in key core technologies.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China's annual expenditure on R&D in 2018 hit 1.97 trillion yuan (around 282.53 billion U.S. dollars), an increase of 207.18 billion yuan or 11.8 percent from the previous year.

Expenditure on basic research was 109.04 billion yuan, a rise of 11.8 percent year on year.

In February 2018, Zhang Xiaoyuan, an official overseeing resource allocation and management at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the proportion of funding for basic science R&D by the central government in science and technology had reached the level of developed countries.

In line with the growth of investment, China's contribution to global research output has grown impressively over the years.

In 2019, Chinese researchers achieved the first use of a gene-editing tool to try to cure HIV, the first three-dimensional structure of the African swine fever virus, the first observation of parity-time symmetry in quantum research, and the first landing on the far side of the moon.

The success of the world's first quantum satellite, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), is cited as an example of basic science research achievement in China.

After the satellite was launched on Aug. 16, 2016, its three major scientific goals -- quantum key distribution, quantum entanglement distribution and quantum teleportation -- were achieved a year ahead of schedule.

Pan Jianwei, lead scientist of QUESS, noted that QUESS is a systematic project and the key to its success was coordination and collaboration by Chinese researchers in difference disciplines. Enditem

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