Building an Overpass of Science and Technology Policy for Connecting the Belt and Road 26

July 19,2017

In his visit to Germany in June, Premier Li Keqiang secured four “outcomes”, and the “China Strategy” and the “German Strategy” issued respectively by the competent departments of the two countries added another splendid chapter to the “scientific and technological cooperation” between the two major countries. The publication of the “German Strategy” would not be possible without the work of an institution called the International Research and Training Center for Science and Technology Strategy (CISTRAT) under the auspices of UNESCO which functions within the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development (CASTED).

Established in 2012, CISTRAT is UNESCO’s first category-2 center in the world with a focus on the research and training of science, technology, and S&T policy. Cooperation between China and Germany, the United States, the European Union, ASEAN, and Africa in the area of science and technology strategy provides research support for this platform.

“A category-2 center under UNESCO may not seem that significant, but, if put in the context of “Belt and Road” cooperation, the research and cooperation of science and technology policies among countries will be particularly important,” Vice President of CASTED Wu Yishan said in an interview with the reporter of Science and Technology Daily. “This institution is like an overpass that connects the science community of a country with its government. It also helps China strengthen its link with countries along the “Belt and Road” and UNESCO.

A few days ago, CISTRAT received a week-long assessment by the UNESCO expert team, which recommended UNESCO to renew its cooperation agreement with the Chinese government.

Teaching the “secret” of science and technology planning

CISTRAT uses its own international cooperation platform to expand cooperation with the institutions of the Council members, and invites well-known experts to international seminars to share their countries’ experience in developing science and technology innovation policies, and explore new models of international cooperation.

“China’s scientific and technological strength has attracted the world’s attention. Many developing countries have formed the impression that China’s secret weapon is long-term planning for science and technology development,” Chen Baoming, a research fellow at CISTRAT, told the reporter of Science and Technology Daily. According to him, students from government departments often have a strong interest in China’s planning. When they return to their countries, they also start to take actions, such as the construction of the science and technology park in Mongolia, the first technology exchange in Vietnam and the science and technology plan of Thailand… All these actions are somewhat connected to the exchange and cooperation these countries conducted with CISTRAT.

Since its establishment five years ago, the center has trained more than 100 students from 34 countries, including more than 60 students from countries along the “Belt and Road”. In addition to classes, the students also had the opportunity to participate in activities such as the G20 Business Innovation Forum, and visit places like China Science and Technology Museum, Shanghai Zhangjiang Hi-tech Park, and Wuhan East Lake High-tech Development Zone.

Adding “Chinese elements” to cooperation

Compared with the training assistance provided to developing countries, cooperation with developed countries and UNESCO on science and technology policies mainly takes the form of joint research and exploration. China’s scientific and technological statistics and survey is a vivid example.

In terms of scientific and technological statistics, the OECD and Eurostat are the world leaders. How to cooperate with them? “Keep contributing Chinese wisdom!” Xuan Zhaohui, a research fellow at CISTRAT, told the reporter that starting with the survey on China’s scientific and technological innovation in 2012, CISTRAT has continued to apply for international cooperation projects to make reference to the standard framework and enrich it with Chinese elements of innovation. The reports on China’s scientific and technological innovation indicators and innovation index are both followed closely by the international community. At present, under the EU framework, the international scientific and technological cooperation project on “responsible innovation”, in which China, India and other developing countries are also playing an active part, is under implementation. The CISTRAT task group has added a unique touch of “Chinese elements” to this project.

Breaking the barrier between government and academia with a hard-soft approach

There is a far distance between policy researchers and government policy makers in the area of science and technology. However, in order to formulate and implement effective scientific and technological innovation policies, policy makers need to seek nourishments from policy researchers, while policy researchers should also understand how the government functions under normal conditions to avoid a disconnect between theories and practices. Breaking barriers through cooperation is a common practice in all countries.

The United States has a program called “Congressional Research Service”. Under this program, some scientific and technical personnel are dispatched to work in the offices of the members of congress or assistants to the members of congress for a period of time in order to strengthen the link between members of congress with decision-making power and the science and technology community. “This helps them get familiar with the process of the US congress in making science and technology policies, so that they will be more effective in submitting policy recommendations in the future,” said Wu Yishan. In addition to its mainland, the United States has extended this practice to its cooperation mechanisms with countries like Australia and ASEAN members.

“One of the challenges of international scientific and technological cooperation is that it is easier for countries to learn advanced science and technology from the target countries, but they often don’t know where to go when they want to learn more about the ‘soft science’ that dominates the country’s decision-making process.” Wu Yishan said that in order to further improve international cooperation in scientific and technological innovation, China can seek inspiration from the practices of developed countries, that is, not only make China’s hard power in science and technology known to the target countries, but also help the target countries improve the model of scientific and technological decision-making and consulting. Only with this mixed approach, applying both hard and soft forces, can cooperation produce satisfactory results. CISTRAT faces new opportunities and challenges in this regard.

Reporter: He Liang

(All pictures are downloaded from the Internet, except those autographed.)

Link: Building an Overpass of Science and Technology Policy for Connecting the Belt and Road – China Science and Technology Net