USA vs. China Ways (8.1)

David W Wang
3 min readAug 14, 2021

Is Science & Technology Now the 1st Productive Force in China?

On August 9, 2021, according to a new CSET (Center for Security and Emerging Technologies) report by Georgetown University, China could graduate nearly twice as many STEM PhDs (about 77,000) as the United States by 2025.

Does this mean China will supersede the US as next super power of science and technologies? Here we want to give this trend some insight.

About 43 years ago when China started its Reform and Openness, its leadership proclaimed that science and technologies should become the 1st productive force in China. Sounds pretty impressive, right? But we need to understand the background of such an announcement.

In general we can categorize science into natural science and social science. After the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949, it found out while natural science can be a useful tool, social science can often get off track from CPC’s main ideology — Marxism and Leninism. Even in natural science, it is full of rules and laws that reflect the Western thinking and concepts that CPC often found disturbing.

Consequently science was treated often as a hostile force in China’s politics. The Chinese intellectuals as a group were deemed low in social status and sometimes purged as enemies. Such anti-science and intellectuals treatment came to the peaks during the so called “Cultural Evolution” between 1966 to 1976.

When Deng Xiaoping tired to rescue China from a debacle as the result of the cultural resolution, he boldly made changes on many CCP old policies and mindset. In essence, he started to boost the development of natural science and loosed reign on the development of social science in China. As the result, the country soared back to its momentum for progress and development.

It’s amid such historical context, China’s leadership finally recognized that science and technology is the 1st productive force for this country. CCP must learn to respect knowledge, respect science, and respect intellectuals.

So what’s the status quo of China’s science and technologies today? A lot of progress made , meanwhile a lot of problems remain. What’s the core of the problem? Science has won some respective status, but is still far away…

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David W Wang
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Based in Washington DC metro, a senior analyst and columnist on US-China relations and political cultures. Best-seller Publication: Decoding Dragon’s Mindset