Do­na­tion to US in­sti­tute causes mixed re­ac­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The ra­tio of re­search and de­vel­op­ment ex­pen­di­ture to GDP is fre­quently used as an in­di­ca­tor for a coun­try’s eco­nomic power.

That is why some Chi­nese sci­en­tists said they were as­ton­ished when a Chi­nese busi­ness­man do­nated a large sum of money to sup­port fun­da­men­tal re­search in the United States, a coun­try with a per capita GDP seven times that of China.

On Wed­nes­day, Chen Tian­qiao, once ranked the rich­est man in China, to­gether with his wife, Luo Qian­qian, do­nated $115 mil­lion to set up a foun­da­tion at the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in the US in ef­forts to crack the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples that un­der­lie brain func­tion.

Qiu Zi­long, a re­searcher at the Shang­hai In­sti­tute for Bi­o­log­i­cal Sciences af­fil­i­ated to the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, told the Shang­haibased China Busi­ness News: “At first, I was pleased that Chi­nese en­trepreneurs are show­ing an in­ter­est in brain sci­ence and fun­da­men­tal re­search. But then I felt sorry (for the Chi­nese sci­en­tists).”

“$115 mil­lion may not be much money for the US, but it is an enor­mous fig­ure for Chi­nese re­searchers,” Qiu said.

Chen Yelin, a re­searcher at the Shang­hai In­sti­tute of Or­ganic Chem­istry af­fil­i­ated to the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, said: “Neu­ro­science is al­ready such a huge re­search field in US that an ad­di­tional $115 mil­lion won’t bring sig­nif­i­cant changes, de­spite sig­nif­i­cant me­dia at­ten­tion. How­ever, China is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a fast growth pe­riod, where such in­vest­ment would likely bring changes from a longterm per­spec­tive.”

“It is a bet­ter choice to in­vest in our own sci­en­tists rather than in­vest­ing in US sci­en­tists, given the fact that most of us were trained in the US,” Chen said.

How­ever, some ex­perts said the in­vest­ment would ben­e­fit hu­mankind as a whole.

Hu Ji, a pro­fes­sor of Shang­haiTech Uni­ver­sity, said: “The com­pe­ti­tion for re­search re­sources for fun­da­men­tal re­search is among in­di­vid­ual re­searchers, not hu­mankind as a whole. For in­stance, Chi­nese peo­ple have ben­e­fited from progress made by US sci­en­tists in can­cer treat­ment. So it is a good thing that rich en­trepreneurs like Chen in­vest in sci­en­tific re­search.”

How­ever, a re­searcher from Bei­jing, who pre­ferred to be anony­mous, said: “There are no bound­aries for pure the­o­ret­i­cal re­search, so it is un­der­stand­able that Chen would want to in­vest his money in in­sti­tutes or uni­ver­si­ties con­sid­ered to be the most elite aca­dem­i­cally”.

China Busi­ness News con­trib­uted to this story.

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