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China - Intensive Research Cooperation in New Fields

China is Germany's most important partner in Asia. Over the recent decades, both countries have significantly expanded their cooperation in research and education. The agenda for the second round of German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations held in Beijing on 30 August 2012 included topics such as LED technology and oceanography. At the first round of German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations in Berlin at the end of June 2011, both lands signed off on several declarations of bilateral cooperation in education and research, including initiatives in vocational training, higher education cooperation, a German-Chinese Wissenschaftskolleg, innovation research, life sciences, and sustainable water management.

Germany and China want to develop energy-saving technology together

At the second German-Chinese intergovernmental consultations in Beijing in August 2012 agreements were reached on stronger cooperation in the fields of LED technology and oceanography. In addition, the ministers exchanged ideas regarding furthers steps for previously agreed upon measures, such as the establishment of a Chinese-German Wissenschaftskolleg.

Further arrangements were also made for the German-Chinese Innovation Platform, which was founded in Beijing last September by experts from both countries. A follow-up conference was held in Berlin on 26 and 27 November 2012. The agenda included topics such as "International Research and Development Investment," "International Knowledge-Flows," "Standardization," "Science Industry Linkages," "Public Innovation Funding," and "Selection and Evaluation."

Progress in cooperation is also being made by the German-Chinese Innovation Platform Life Sciences, which has already held expert workshops. Under the leadership of the BMBF, a delegation of scientists and industry representative in the field of life sciences visited their Chinese partners during this conference.

The German-Chinese Research and Innovation Programme "Clean Water" is also on the right path. In April 2012, the joint project "SEMIZENTRAL" for the implementation of a supply and treatment system was launched in Qingdao as part of the World Horticultural Fair 2014. Additionally, German scientists will be able to take part in ongoing Chinese mega water projects.

New centres for vocational training and the joint development of standards for vocational training are helping advance the German-Chinese Alliance for Vocational Training as well. In addition, student exchanges are to be expanded and further model partnerships at institutes of higher education are to be created.

Researching to Grow: Research and Development in China

China's political leadership understands research and development to be the foundation of economic growth and the basis upon which Chinese society can thrive. China's Innovation Strategy (2006 to 2009) as well as both the eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006 to 2010) and the twelfth Five-Year Plan (2011 to 2015) have focused on the utilization of science and technology as resources for industry and services. The People's Republic of China has increased its investments in research and development from 0.90% (2000) to 1.54% (2008) and finally to 1.75% (2010) of the gross domestic product (GDP). Public sector R&D funding makes up about one third of the expenditure while two thirds are obtained from industry. 

Making Research Competitive

Industry is playing an ever-growing role. Accordingly, research and development in China are increasingly being reformed on the basis of economic criteria. Largely exempted from these reforms, however, are institutions of basic research. The key aspect of these modifications is a new emphasis on the industrialization and commercialization of technologies. Amoung other indicators, this shift is apparent in the fact that 83% of Chinese R&D expenditure goes to experimental development, while only 5% is allocated to basic research and 12% to applied research (2008). Whereas the initial reforms (starting in 1978) were devoted to the rebuilding of the research landscape following the Cultural Revolution, reforms beginning with the seventh Five-Year Plan (1985-1990) shifted focus towards networking between R&D institutions and economic enterprises. The goal is to integrate research institutions within the "socialist market economy" and make them competitive, so they can meet the challenges of the market.

This process is gaining momentum. China's Innovation Strategy, announced in February 2006 [Outline of the Medium- and Long-Term Plan for National Science and Technology Development (2006-2010)], aims to promote the development of science and technology in terms of increasing China's capacity for innovation and transforming China into an international leader in innovation. At the same time, the plan seeks to reduce China's dependency on foreign technology significantly. Emphasis is also being placed on sustainability and the importance of basic research. China is continually promoting the expansion of its research potential (primarily in the public sector), especially through significant increases in its R&D investments coupled with the training of R&D personnel. Investments in research and development are estimated to rise to 2.2% of China's GDP in 2015 and should increase to 2.5% by 2020. These increases will be facilitated by the strongly improved financial opportunities arising from Chinas economic success.

Chinese scientists and research institutes have already achieved the standards of western industrial countries in many fields or will do so in the near future. In some areas Chinese researchers are amoung the world's best, and R&D capacities are increasingly being outsourced to China (the country already ranks third in foreign R&D investments).

Investments in Education on the Rise

The capacities of the Chinese higher education system are also being significantly expanded. This development is coupled with a distinct hierarchization of the universities (for example, the establishing of elite universities). In the future, improvements to the quality of education will be a major focus. The Chinese government's investments in education were approximately 3.1% of GDP in 2010 and are estimated to reach 4% by 2012.

Economic Incentives for the Sciences

China's integration in the international community is also reflected in the international cooperation and involvement of Chinese scientists, the rising acceptance of western quality standards in research and teaching, and China's own growing awareness of the importance of the protection of intellectual property. The autonomy of various Chinese players has also dramatically increased. Universities and research institutes as well as businesses have gained considerable freedoms in recent years, along with individual responsibility, in regard to management, administration, and project implementation. Chinese researchers are being challenged to translate their results into practical applications and are thus contributing to the effort to solve economic, social, and ecological problems. Various, primarily economic, incentives for institutes and scientists have been introduced in support of this policy.

Joint Institutes: The German-Chinese Partnership

In the recent years, cooperation between Germany and China in education and research has advanced significantly. China has become Germany's most important partner in Asia, measured in terms of both the number of projects and the amount of funding. Institutional partnerships, including the founding of joint institutes, have become increasingly important in the scientific and technological cooperation (STC). For example, joint German-Chinese institutes have been established in Beijing and Berlin in the field of information and communication through the support of the BMBF and under the umbrella of the Frauenhofer-Gesellschaft. Another successful example is the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, the founding of which was also funded through the BMBF. Growing value is also being placed on the financial participation of industrial partners in cooperative projects.

German-Chinese cooperation in education and research is coordinated by joint government commissions which meet at intervals of one to two years. The Joint STC Commission and the Joint Steering Committees are active in the following fields of scientific and technological cooperation:

  • Biotechnology
  •  Geosciences
  •  Information technology, microsystem technology
  •  Protection of  cultural heritage
  •  Laser and optical technologies
  •  Materials science, nanotechnology
  •  Marine science and technology
  •  Environmental technology and ecology
  •  Production research

Funding is also being made available for initiatives in other natural sciences (e.g. health and biodiversity research, engineering sciences, physical and chemical technologies) as well in the humanities and social sciences.

The German-Chinese scientific and technological cooperation (STC) is based on the Inter-governmental Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, created on October 9, 1978. During the first phase of the cooperation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, focus was directed towards contact between and visits by individual scientists. Following this phase, the focus shifted to project-based cooperation. Although project cooperation remains an important part of the STC with China, it is now being complimented by institutional cooperation.

Joint Courses of Study and Shared Educational Standards

The German-Chinese cooperation in the field of education is structured differently than the research policy partnership. For example, cooperation in education is not supported by an agreement like the STC. So too do the large number of players in the field of education and the separation of powers allow the BMBF comparatively limited room to maneuver.

Since 2004, cooperation in higher education between the BMBF and the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) has been developed through strategic educational policy talks. In addition to the discussion of current projects and new proposals, these talks provide the opportunity for intensive technical discussions which play a decisive role in the planning of future cooperative measures. The strategic goal of the partnership between the BMBF and MoE covers the development of joint courses of study through to the establishment of shared educational standards. Proposals are agreed upon by the BMBF and MoE, and these pilot projects are provided with start-up funding. The findings which result from these projects are intended to contribute to the further development of the German-Chinese cooperation between institutes of higher education.

In the 1980s and 1990s, educational cooperation was mainly the task of subordinate organizations (especially DAAD) and other scientific and research organizations (particularly AvH, DFG, MPG, etc.). A large number of German universities have been participating in academic exchanges with partner universities in China since the 1970s without the financial or organizational support of the BMBF. Meanwhile there are over 750 German-Chinese university partnerships.

Cooperation with China is supported locally by the Science Counselor and his team at the German Embassy in Beijing, as well as by the Department of Science at the Consulate General in Shanghai. The DFG and its partner, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), have maintained a Chinese-German Centre for Science Promotion in Beijing since October 2000. Both the liaison office of the HGF as well as a representative of the FhG are located in Beijing as well. The DAAD has had a branch in Beijing since 1994, and also maintains information centres in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hongkong.

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© 04/23/2014 04:41 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung