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Eridi Branco Victor da Silva

Professor Erik Shen
Introduction to Civilizations of Asia
15 May 2014
Science and Technology in China
Back in time, there were many nascent schools of thought in China — the Hundred Schools of
Thought, scattered among many polities. The schools served as communities, which advised the
rulers of these states. Mo Di (470 BCE–ca. 391 BCE) introduced concepts useful to one of those
rulers, such as defensive fortification. One of these concepts, fa (法 principle or method) was
extended by the School of Names, which began a systematic exploration of logic. (1)
The Eastern Han Dynasty scholar and astronomer Zhang Heng (78-139 AD) invented the first
water-powered rotating armillary sphere, and catalogued 2500 stars and over 100 constellations.
In 132, he invented the first seismological detector, called the "Houfeng Didong Yi" ("Instrument
for inquiring into the wind and the shaking of the earth"). According to the History of Later Han
Dynasty (25-220 AD), this seismograph was an urn-like instrument, which would drop one of eight
balls to indicate when and in which direction an earthquake had occurred. On June 13, 2005,
Chinese seismologists announced that they had created a replica of the instrument. (2)
The "Four Great Inventions" are the compass, gunpowder, papermaking and printing. Paper and
printing were developed first. Printing was recorded in China in the Tang Dynasty, although the
earliest surviving examples of printed cloth patterns date to before 220. Pin-pointing the
development of the compass can be difficult: the magnetic attraction of a needle is attested by the
Louen-heng, composed between AD 20 and 100, although the first undisputed magnetized needles
in Chinese literature appear in 1086. (Vainker, Shelagh)
The Tang Dynasty (618 - 906 AD) in particular was a time of great innovation. In the 7th century,
book-printing was developed in China, Korea and Japan, using delicate hand-carved wooden
blocks to print individual pages. The 9th century Diamond Sutra is the earliest known printed
document. Movable type was also used in China for a time, but was abandoned because of the
number of characters needed; it would not be until Johannes Gutenberg that the technique was
reinvented in a suitable environment. (1)
The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and
astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China. One modern historian writes that in late
Ming courts, the Jesuits were "regarded as impressive especially for their knowledge of astronomy,
calendar-making, mathematics, hydraulics, and geography." (Ebrey, Patricia B.) The Society of
Jesus introduced, according to Thomas Woods, "a substantial body of scientific knowledge and a
vast array of mental tools for understanding the physical universe, including the Euclidean
geometry that made planetary motion comprehensible." (Woods, Thomas)
One question that has been the subject of debate among historians has been why China did not
develop a scientific revolution and why Chinese technology fell behind that of Europe. Many
hypotheses have been proposed ranging from the cultural to the political and economic. John K.
Fairbank, for example, argued that the Chinese political system was hostile to scientific progress.
As for Needham, he wrote that cultural factors prevented traditional Chinese achievements from
developing into what could be called "science." Nathan Sivin, however, has argued that China did
experience a scientific revolution during the 17th century, but it is yet to be understood. According
to him, there is a need to understand the different nature and meaning of "science" itself, whether
it’s in the West, China or other regions, along with all of their political, economic and social
ramifications. Sivin suggests that we need to look at the scientific development in China on its
own terms. (3)
Modern Era
China, as well as other Asian nations, sees science and technology as vital for achieving economic
and political goals as well as national prestige. Lacking indigenous technological intellectual
property and innovation are seen as key national problems. Premier Wen Jiabao in 2006 stated that
"Without independent innovation China would be unable to claim an equal place in the world or
achieve national honor". (4)
Nationalism and nationalistic achievements have been seen as becoming the main ideological
justifications and societal glue for the regime as Marxism loses influence. Some science and
technology mega-projects has been seen as questionable trophy projects done for propaganda
purposes with Chinese state-controlled media being filled with reports of Chinese achievements.
Between 2000 and 2008 Gross Domestic Expenditures on Research and Development (GERD)
rose by an average of 22.8% annually which increased the share of GERD to GDP from 0.9% to
1.54%. China aims to increase this to 2.5% by 2020. In 2008 82.76% went to experimental
development, 12.46% to applied research, and 4.78% to basic research. Business enterprises
contributed 59.95% of GERD in 2000 and 73.26% in 2008. Spending by enterprises is
predominantly on experimental development. China aims to increase basic research's share to 15%
by 2020. The research firm Battelle estimates that China's R&D expenditures will exceed that of
the United States in 2023. (6)
In the first participation of Chinese student in an international student assessment test, the 2009
Programme for International Student Assessment, 15-years-old students from Shanghai ranked
first in all of the three categories: mathematics, science, and reading. The Chinese students scored
particularly well compared to other nations in mathematics. One explanation for the Chinese
results may be a culture emphasizing education and competitive examinations and more time spent
studying in part due to less participation in activities such as sports. Teaching have become a higher
status occupation. Also, industrialized Shanghai which has done important educational reforms
may not be representative for the rest of China. While there was no evidence of cheating or
technical problems with the testing, Shanghai which attracts many immigrants from the rest of
China may have allowed particularly good students to study in the city and the students may have
been told that the test was important for China's image. The OECD director of the testing, Andreas
Schleicher, said that the results were expected to produce astonishment and had been examined
for accuracy by international experts after the OECD received the Shanghai scores. He also said
that the results "refute the commonly held hypothesis that China just produces rote learning" and
"Large fractions of these students demonstrate their ability to extrapolate from what they know
and apply their knowledge very creatively in novel situations". (7)

Overseas Chinese, as is the case for other diasporas and their homelands, have contributed
significantly to China's development. They have been seen as an important channel for bringing
trade, investment, and modern technology to China by both commercial activities and public non-
profit cooperation. (8)
The China Internet Information Center stated in a 2005 article that China had inter-governmental
cooperative S&T agreements with 96 nations, cooperative S&T programs with 152 nations and
regions, and participated in more than 1,000 international S&T cooperative organizations. NGO
international exchanges and cooperative activities had increased. The China Association for
Science and Technology and related organizations as well as the National Natural Science
Foundation of China participated in many cooperative international organizations. Chinese
researchers held 281 leading posts on international organizations' expert committees and held 293
executive member-director or higher level positions. (9)
China has increasingly encouraged multinational corporations to create R&D centers in China.
Chinese critics have argued that foreign owned R&D mainly benefits foreign companies and
removes many talented Chinese researchers from indigenous companies and institutions. Chinese
supporters have argued that the foreign R&D serves as a role model and encouragement for
indigenous companies and creates skilled communities from which labor and knowledge can easily
flow to indigenous companies. In 2010 there were 1,200 such R&D centers and 400 out the Fortune
500 corporations had created such R&D centers. Corporations have argued that this is a necessity
in order to adapt products for the local requirements of the Chinese market as well as it being
essential for maintaining global competitiveness to make use the many available Chinese engineers
and scientists. China is now ranked first when multinational corporations are asked in which nation
future R&D centers are most likely to be located. (10)
A 2005 report found serious shortcomings to China’s national innovation system. There were
problems with services to help turn S&T work into results and the allocation of national funding
to support S&T was far from optimal. Sometimes researchers became short-sighted if they get too
close to the market. Another serious problem was that companies facing severe competition looked
first to purchase foreign technology rather than investing in developing technology and technology
development capacity at home in China. Many of the patent applications came from medium sized
enterprises (70%) since small enterprises invest little in research. China's hierarchical, top-down
society where authority is greatly respected and feared has been argued to stifle creative debate.
The Royal Society in a 2011 report on academic publishing stated that in share of English scientific
research papers the United States was first followed by China, the UK, Germany, Japan, France,
and Canada. The report predicted that China would overtake the United States some time before
2020, possibly as early as 2013. China's scientific impact, as measured by other scientists citing
the published papers the next year, is smaller although also increasing. An analysis of ISI Web of
Knowledge data found that China had increased its share of the 1% of most highly cited science
articles from 1.85% in 2001 to 11.3% in 2011. By 2014 China could surpass Germany and the UK
and be ranked second after the United States. The share of the United States declined from 64.3%
to 50.7% during the same ten-year period. (12)
Concerned about corruption in Chinese science, some Chinese scientists, including Professor Liu
Ming of Zhejiang University in his 2005 book Critique of the Academic Evaluation System, argue
that interference from government officials and university bureaucrats makes peer review far less
effective in China than it could be. The time scientists spend cultivating politically influential
people is lost to scientific research. Liu argues that the command economy mentality of measuring
everything by the numbers combined with pervasive political interference results in a great waste
of money, human talent as well as considerable corruption in Chinese science. A 2008
investigation into a certification for high-tech enterprises allowing large tax breaks and other
advantages found that more than 70% of the enterprises had gained this under questionable
circumstances and an investigation of a sample found that 73% did not pass the requirements. (10)
As the People's Republic of China becomes better connected to the global economy, the
government has placed more emphasis on science and technology. This has led to increases in
funding, improved scientific structure, and more money for research. These factors have led to
advancements in agriculture, medicine, genetics, and global change.
1) Needham, Joseph (1956). Science and Civilisation in China. 2 History of Scientific Thought. p.
697. ISBN 0-521-05800-7.
2) 13 May 2014 <>
3) 13 May 2014 <>
4) David Kang and Adam Segal, The Siren Song of Technonationalism, March 2006, Far Eastern
Economic Review.
5) Jayshree Bajoria, Nationalism in China, April 23, 2008.
6) 13 May 2014 <>
7) Sam Dillon, Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators, December 7, 2010, New York
8) Teo Victor, Technonationalism, Development and the Chinese Diaspora in East Asia: An
Exploratory Study, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, The 4th International Conference of
Institutes & Libraries for Overseas Chinese Studies May 9–11,Guangzhou,China.
9) International Cooperation in Science and Technology,
10) China’s Program for Science and Technology Modernization: Implications for American
11) 13 May 2014 <>
12) 13 May 2014 <