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Int'l sci-tech cooperation to strengthen B&R

XU PEIYUAN | 2020-11-11 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

A press conference for China and Russia's Year of Science and Technology takes place in Beijing on Nov.15, 2019. Photo: PEOPLE.CN
The Belt and Road (B&R) upholds innovation. In 2017, China's Ministry of Science and Technology launched a strategy for the 13th Five-Year Plan period targeting international cooperation on science and technology (sci-tech) innovation. According to the plan, this form of cooperation can lead and support B&R construction, thereby shaping a community of innovation. In August 2020, China and Russia’s Year of Science and Technology kicked off, facilitating a fast track forward for B&R sci-tech cooperation. 
Sci-tech cooperation is an important part of the joint B&R construction, a focused field where China's work with the countries along the proposed routes is enhanced, as well as a technical guarantee for the successful implementation of B&R projects. 
 At present, a new round of sci-tech revolutions and industrial transformations are reshaping the world economic structure and competitive landscape. The world has reached an agreement that technology should promote economic and social development. China has become an important participant in global sci-tech cooperation. Apart from Russia, India, Israel, and Singapore, China has obvious advantages in many sci-tech fields compared with countries along the proposed B&R routes. China has advanced technology and plenty of sci-tech talent which are suitable for the economic development of countries along the route. An increase in cooperation and sci-tech exports can create a community of innovation along the B&R.
 At the same time, sci-tech cooperation is an effective way to promote people-to-people bonds and a key arena for building a "community of shared future for mankind." The non-rivalrous nature of technology makes spillover and sharing possible, therefore, technological cooperation has become an ideal field for building a community with a shared future. Technology, because of its natural attributes, makes it possible to dismantle cultural hurdles, institutional barriers, and political resistance along the B&R route. 
 Sci-tech cooperation among B&R countries can shift the focus of industrial cooperation from traditional production capacity to new technological production capacity. Cooperation would also provide technical support for the smooth implementation of major B&R projects, as it can help tackle technological bottlenecks and improve the construction quality of these projects. For example, the prerequisite of the successful implementation of the China-Thailand High-Speed Railway and Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway rests upon the cooperation on high-speed rail technology and the unification of technical standards. 
International sci-tech cooperation around the B&R initiative is rich in meaning. The diverse forms of cooperation will facilitate and support the economic development of B&R countries.
Sci-tech professionals' exchanges will be at play. These exchanges include joint talent training, the establishment of sci-tech training bases in B&R countries, implementation of international sci-tech commissioner programs, and various kinds of sci-tech expos. Also, outstanding young scientists can be invited to China to study. Multilayered people-to-people exchange enhances in-depth interaction between Chinese sci-tech professionals and their counterparts in B&R countries. It promotes interactive knowledge transfer, and allows the convergence of resources and technology, making it more convenient for the countries to overcome technical problems together.
Laboratories and technology transfer centers will also contribute to sci-tech cooperation. The construction of joint laboratories aims to enhance the B&R countries' advantages in technology and talent and meet their major technology needs. In this way, participating countries can jointly conduct scientific research, solve major tech problems related to economic development, improvement of people's livelihoods, and the resource environment. 
Essentially, humanities exchange and joint laboratories will boost the transfer of tacit knowledge while deepening R&D personnel's understanding, mastery, application, and expansion of knowledge and technology. They enhance the R&D capabilities of the B&R countries, which is beneficial to making steps in innovation, technology, and high-quality economic development. Through the joint construction of technology transfer centers, B&R countries can directly apply Chinese proprietary (or patented) technologies to eradicate their technological bottlenecks, raise production efficiency, and integrate into the international division of labor system.
B&R countries can collaborate to build sci-tech parks. This move aims to push Chinese high-tech zones, independent innovation demonstration zones, agricultural sci-tech parks, marine sci-tech parks, and environmentally-friendly industrial parks to connect with other countries along the proposed routes. Also, it motivates enterprises rich in funds and technology to work on sci-tech parks with other B&R countries, striving for innovation and entrepreneurship. In this way, other B&R countries can apply Chinese experience to developing their own science and technology. While upgrading their technological strength, they can transform science and technology into productivity.
Sci-tech cooperation also involves the construction of important projects. The projects refer to the technological partnership of B&R countries in the fields of railways, highways, ports, shipping, energy, and information. Participants implement significant projects, promoting the interconnection and exchanges of tech resources such as research instruments and facilities, research data and literature, and biological germplasm. Technical assistance can improve the infrastructure conditions and quality of B&R countries. It also encourages the transnational flow and sharing of engineering technology. These forms of sci-tech cooperation directly enhance the technological capabilities and production efficiency through technology transfer and assistance among these countries, which is of great significance to high-quality economic development.
R&D cooperation and technology transfer are complementary, and they promote each other during economic development. Technology transfer cooperation can remedy technological shortcomings, consolidate foundations for technology, and provide conditions for R&D cooperation. Meanwhile, R&D cooperation can increase the absorption and utilization of transferred technology and enhance the effects of technology transfers.
The B&R sci-tech cooperation should be driven by innovation, selecting influential fields that highlight Chinese technological advantages and meet the demands of B&R countries. The promotion of these projects should conform to the time and the situation. At present, agriculture, environment, medical care, transportation, energy, and information are the fields that most need cooperation.
The innovation of agricultural sci-tech cooperation will support the establishment of an agricultural Silk Road. Agriculture remains the bedrock of the national economy for B&R countries, most of which have food security problems, face hunger and poverty, and have a strong desire to expand agricultural output and quality. The development of agricultural sci-tech cooperation is a common aspiration. At present, Chinese agricultural technologies and product supplies have reached more than 150 countries around the world. More than 60 new technologies and new products in the areas of breeding, plant protection, animal husbandry and medicine, and agricultural machinery have been exported, forming a sufficient foundation for an agricultural Silk Road. 
Innovative cooperation on environmental technology will build a green Silk Road. Many B&R countries also face environmental issues. With the technological advantages of organizations such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China can cooperate with other countries to conduct ecological research and provide long-term monitoring and remote sensing surveys of regional environmental problems, offering a three-dimensional observation network for ecological science. B&R parties can participate in, and benefit from, environmental protection projects. The construction of a green Silk Road is underway.
Innovative cooperation on medical technology will lead to a healthy Silk Road. COVID-19 has spread across the world, significantly impacting lives and economic activities in many countries. China has much to share in terms of pandemic control. Its team for vaccine R&D is among the global vanguard. Other B&R countries have immense and urgent needs for cooperation. Under these circumstances, there should be innovative anti-pandemic cooperation and the plans for health technology commissioners so that countries with insufficient medical technology can receive training and aid within their borders. 
Transportation technology is another innovative field for cooperation, facilitating connectivity among B&R countries. Insufficient transportation infrastructure and difficult geographical conditions have held back the economic and social development of some B&R countries. Transportation technology cooperation with China will help overcome the difficult geographical conditions of B&R countries, as they jointly implement major infrastructure projects such as railways, highways, ports, and waterways. In particular, it is necessary to expand connectivity across pan-Eurasian countries by boosting cooperation on high-speed EMUs and using relevant technologies that promote safe operation. Chinese technology will leverage the construction of a B&R high-speed railway network.
B&R countries can innovate with information technology and build a digital Silk Road. At present, the digital economy is steering global economic development and digital transformation. Technological cooperation must give full play to Chinese advantages in information technology and the digital economy, and deepen collaboration with B&R countries in these fields. China and other B&R countries can jointly build laboratories and industrial parks, and digital free trade zones while expanding cooperation on 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, smart cities, and other new infrastructure fields. The Digital Silk Road of the 21st Century is forging ahead.
Xu Peiyuan is a professor from the Department of Economics and Finance at Huaqiao University.
Edited by MA YUHONG