Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Emergence of Modern Biotechnology in China

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

The Emergence of Modern Biotechnology in China

Article excerpt

Introduction

China has been a pioneer in science, discovery, and invention since its early history. In the 6th century BC, Chinese farmers were using a form of agricultural row cultivation and intensive hoeing that was not practiced in Europe until the 18th century. While Dr. William Harvey is often credited with discovering the circulatory nature of the human blood system in 1628, indisputable and abundant textual evidence from the 2nd century demonstrates China's extensive knowledge on this subject (Temple, 1986). China has utilized traditional forms of manipulating living organisms--agricultural biotechnology--including grain cultivation, soy sauce and vinegar production, and bacterial maceration, for centuries.

Despite these achievements, China has failed to undergo the biotechnology revolution experienced in the West during the twentieth century. Republican China (1912-1949) did make a significant effort to achieve scientific prominence, including establishing the Central Academy of Sciences in 1928. However, the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) indiscriminate acceptance of Soviet pseudo-science, namely anti-Mendelian Lysenkoism, led to intense propaganda campaigns that victimized intellectuals and natural scientists who spoke out against the Party or practiced Mendel-Morgan science.

After years of anti-Mendelian Soviet pseudoscience and decades of anti-intellectual propaganda and persecution, China's biotechnology industry was undeveloped, even backwards. In the post-Mao era, China instituted a novel modernization and high-technology plan to redress these problems with national science and technological advancement. Deng Xiaoping was instrumental in conveying the idea to the Chinese people that science and technology were key to generating economic wealth and improving the country's international reputation. He instituted many of the biotechnical programs in the universities and medical and agricultural institutes that are responsible for China's well-known achievements in the field today.

This article traces the emergence of modern biotechnology in the People's Republic of China, particularly in the agricultural, genomic, and stem-cell sciences and traditional Chinese medicine. The paper begins with a review of the significant events in biology and genetics education and research in China's modern history. The future directions of the biotechnology industry in the country, such as transparent and peer-reviewed funding mechanisms, bioethical and biosafety standards with proper enforcement, and international collaboration in education and multi-faceted sciences, are also discussed.

History of Science & Technology in China (1911-2005)

The collapse of the Chinese monarchial system with the toppling of the Qing dynasty in 1911 marked a turning point in China's science policies. The new Republic of China, under the guidance of the revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, established local, regional, and national scientific societies and scholarly journals, reinstated study abroad education programs, and founded higher education science departments in evolution, population genetics, and the life sciences. Realizing that science and technology were key to China's economic and political stability and development, the central government actively fostered and protected the fledgling scientific community. The founding of the Central Academy of Sciences (Academia Sinica) in 1928 characterized the culmination of modern Chinese scientific exploration. In addition, the China Science Service was published in cooperation with the US Department of State to educate and inform Chinese scientists about important scientific developments in the West (Fairbank, 1976). In fact, Chinese science often replicated the West.

Sino-Soviet Scientific Philosophy (1949-1956)

After the defeat of the Nationalists by the CCP in the 1949 Civil War, the People's Republic of China (PRC) uniformly adopted the prevailing Soviet pseudo-scientific philosophical doctrines and theories of the day, particularly those postulated by Lysenko and Michurin. …

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