CHINA SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Ministry of Science and Technology
People's Republic of China
May 10, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
* China-US S&T Joint Commission Meeting
*China-US Innovation Dialogue
*Trilateral S&T Ministerial Meeting
* World's First Rice Breeding Chip
*New Findings on Brain Circuit Development
* Mapping Satellite Launched
*Red Panda Research Center
China-US S&T Joint Commission Meeting
The 14th China-US Science and Technology Cooperation Joint Commission meeting was convened on May 1, 2012 in Beijing. WAN Gang, CPPCC Vice Chairman and Chinese Science and Technology Minister, said in his speech that China and the United States have achieved laudable progresses in innovation cooperation, since the last joint commission meeting held in October 2009 in Washington DC. S&T cooperation has made a positive contribution to the bilateral cooperation in others areas, including culture, economy, and trade. WAN reviewed the latest developments of bilateral S&T cooperation in the following nine aspects:
- China and the United States established an innovation dialogue mechanism to share the views and experience on preparing innovation policies. A China-US Innovation Research Panel was set up to enhance mutual trust and build consensus, deepening mutual understanding from dialogue to cooperation.
- China and the United States created a Clean Energy Research Center. The two countries have invested USD 150 million in the last five years to support the joint research and development in the areas of clean energy vehicles, clean coal, and energy efficiency buildings. Three industry-university-institute alliances made up of some 100 institutions have been created to protect intellectual property rights. The two countries have made fruitful cooperation in the areas of power generation, clean fuel, oil and gas, energy, environment, and climate, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, under the China-US Fossil Energy Protocol, which promotes the trade and business between the two countries, and laid a solid foundation for industrial collaborations between the two countries.
- China and the United States agreed to start a flagship research project for agriculture, promoting the partnership between the public and private sectors in the two countries.
- National Natural Science Foundation of China and U.S. National Institutes of Health have jointly initiated a range of research projects in the areas of cancer, immunity, infectious diseases, AIDS among others. The two organizations have so far defined two rounds of projects. They are also planning to finance future collaborative researches in the areas of infectious and chronic diseases.
- China and the United States established a joint working group to renew the cooperation protocol. The joint working group will convene its first meeting next month in the United States.
- CAS Institute of High Energy Physics and its U.S. collaborators conducted a neutrino experiment at the Daya Bay, with the fund and equipment contributed by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Guangdong Provincial Government and U.S. Department of Energy. In March 2012, the international team of the Daya Bay Neutrino Experiment announced simultaneously in China and the United States that Chinese and US scientists have discovered a new neutrino oscillation mode.
- Chinese and US scientists are working to establish a joint research mechanism under the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
- Chinese and US government agencies and scientists have made fruitful cooperation in the fields of meteorology, oceanography, metrology, nuclear safety, disaster prevention and mitigation, Earth observation, and bio-diversity.
- With the support of government agencies in the two countries, China and the United States staged young scientists exchange programs and young scientists forums. Under a young scientists visiting program that will soon be launched, China will select 12 young scientists to visit the United States on an annual basis.
WAN added that China will continue to enhance the openness in the field of science and technology, raising the level of cooperation, creating a cooperation platform for innovation from global perspective, building an open environment for innovation, and feeding more momentums to China's R&D innovations. To this end, the Chinese government will take a range of measures to substantially enhance the internationalization of China’s R&D activities. China will open its national S&T programs more to the outside world, promoting the development of international/regional S&T cooperation centers and S&T cooperation demonstration parks, supporting Chinese enterprises, universities and research institutions to be an active part of international cooperation, and supporting foreign businesses to establish their R&D centers in China.
China-US Flagship Agriculture Project
Representatives from China and the United States jointly undersigned an accord to stage flagship agricultural projects on May 1, 2012 at the 14th China-US Science and Technology Cooperation Joint Commission meeting.
According to a briefing, at the 9th China-US agricultural cooperation joint working group meeting held in October 2011, the two parties made an in-depth discussion of the possible joint R&D in the areas of agricultural biotechnology, water-saving, gene collection among others, and reached consensus on some projects. In November the same year, China and the United States jointly inked a letter of intent for staging flagship projects in the field of agriculture.
SHI Yanquan, Deputy Director of Chinese Ministry of Agriculture Division of Science and Technology pointed out that in 2011 China and the United States registered an agricultural trade exceeding USD 30 billion. China has become the largest export market of U.S. agricultural products. The rapid growth of China-US trade of agricultural products has benefited the two peoples by providing abundant high quality agricultural products to them, and finding the market for U.S. farmers. In 2011, the United States exported USD 23.3 billion worth agricultural products to China.
China and the United States have achieved laudable progresses in agricultural cooperation, since the signing of the agricultural cooperation protocol between the two countries in 2002. An official inter-governmental cooperation mechanism has been established to work on the collaborations in seven priority areas, including agricultural biotechnology, food safety, dairy production and processing, bioenergy among others, along with a range of important cooperation documents signed to ensure the focus of cooperation.
China-US Innovation Dialogue
The third China-US Innovation Dialogue, a high level officials meeting, was held on May 2, 2012 in Beijing. WAN Gang, Vice-Chairman of CPPCC National Committee and Chinese Minister of Science and Technology, and Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy co-chaired the dialogue.
WAN said the two countries have reached more consensuses on the principle, practice, and measures applied to innovations, through dialogue. The mechanism has been thought highly by the two countries’ leaders and communities concerned for its positive contribution to a stable bilateral relationship. Both parties have seen many important progresses being achieved on innovation issues. The Chinese government is committed to creating a more open and more equitable environment for innovations. China has made noticeable progresses in IPR protection, original innovation and associated application and diffusion. In 2011, China registered an invention grants growth by 30%, with a technology trade increase by 22 percent at RMB 476.4 billion. Meanwhile, China enhanced the law enforcement in the area. In 2011, China raised the conclusion of intellectual property related legal disputes by 30%.
Holdren said innovation collaboration is an important pillar in the broader China-US relations. The two countries should work together to address the challenges that they individually or jointly face, including agriculture, energy, environmental protection, climate change, among others. He hoped the two sides would have an enhanced and more effective collaboration on innovation under the framework of China-US S&T cooperation protocol.
At the dialogue forum, academic and industrial representatives from the two countries expressed their willingness to work on several cooperative projects, including establishing a joint research center, setting up a joint fund to support cross-country industrial R&D, establishing a China-US innovation demonstration park, and initiating a China-US venture program.
Trilateral S&T Ministerial Meeting
A trilateral talk, the third of its kind staged for science and technology ministers from China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea to meet, was held on April 28, 2012 in Shanghai. Three delegations respectively headed by WAN Gang, Chinese Minister of Science and Technology, Hirofumi Hirano, Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and Ju-Ho Lee, South Korean Minister of Education, Science, and Technology attended the meeting. At the meeting, participants discussed a range of issues concerning the latest science and technology policies in the three countries, joint research programs, exchange of researchers, young scientists forum, and green technology forum, among others. After the meeting, three ministers inked a joint declaration, stating that the three parties will focus their collaborative researches in the areas of water cycle, disaster prevention and control, and environment, encouraging enterprises to be part of the collaborative research. The three parties also agreed to convene the Third Young Scientists Forum next year in Japan.
The young scientists forum, the second of its kind co-sponsored by the three countries’ S&T ministries, was held on the same day. Three ministers attended the closing ceremony of the forum. At the forum, young scientists from three countries shared their views on the technological progresses and industrial developments in the areas of biotechnology, information technology, and new energy, surrounding the theme of new technology, new growth, and new development, and explored possible future cooperation in the areas.
It is agreed that the fourth trilateral S&T ministerial meeting will be held in 2014 in the Republic of Korea.
World's First Rice Breeding Chip
China Seeds Group, in collaboration with Huazhong Agricultural University and Peking University, recently rolled out the world's first genome based rice breeding chip. Dr. YU Huihui at China Seeds Group Life Sciences Center told reporters that the novel rice chip is able to determine the authenticity of rice seeds based on some 5,000 sites in the genome, rather than the 24 SSR markers as recommended, enjoying an enhanced accuracy and reliability. Meanwhile, thanks to the technique applied in breeding material background checking, the chip is able to accurately determine the background of intermediate materials applied, and exercise a precise control accordingly, allowing the breeder to quickly select the needed materials with a significantly improved breeding efficiency. Now it takes only 3 to 5 years rather than 8 to 10 years to produce a species.
New Findings on Brain Circuit Development
A study team led by YU Yongchun at Fudan University Institute of Neurobiology, in collaboration with a team headed by SHI Songhai at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer in New York, has for the first time found that electrical synapses’ communications between brain neurons play an important role in the development of brain circuits. The finding was published in the online issue of Nature.
YU and coworkers proved the important role played by electrical synapses in the development of cerebral cortex neural circuits by changing the electrical synaptic connections between excitatory neurons, providing an important clue for translating the electrical synaptic connections to chemical connections.
To study the impact of electrical synapses on the development of chemical synapses, YU and coworkers selectively blocked the connections of sister neuron electrical synapses, using molecular biological techniques. They found that the blockade of the electrical connection impairs the subsequent formation of specific chemical synapses between sister excitatory neurons, though the chemical synaptic connections between non-sister neurons were not affected.
The finding suggests that the development of cerebral cortex neural circuits follows a rule, and there is a strong link between lineage-dependent transient electrical coupling and the assembly of precise excitatory neuron microcircuits in the neocortex.
Mapping Satellite Launched
At 1510, May 6, 2012, China blasted off a mapping satellite named Tinahui-I02, aboard a CZIID launch vehicle, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite has entered preset orbit as planned. The new satellite will be mainly used to work on scientific missions, including land resources survey and mapping. The remote sensing data and experiment results derived from the satellite will be useful to China's scientific research and national economic development.
Timber Quality Study
A project staged to study the mechanisms that regulate the formation of timber was recently launched at Lanzhou University under the National 973 Program. The project is designed to improve the quality of fast-growing timber species, such as poplar, using modern biological means, including genomics, molecular biology, genetics among others. It will establish an efficient molecular design and breeding system, and breed out new timber varieties that are able to meet the breeding needs, raising the level and quality of China’s timber quality study. The study will focus on the following topics: 1) the molecular mechanisms that involve in the regulation of secondary cell wall synthesis, assembly, and deposition; 2) the mechanism that regulates xylem cell differentiation; and 3) the identification and genetic analysis of the key genetic loci that affect timber property, and associated effects on timber tree breeding.
Efforts will be made to study the synthesis mechanism of cell wall components, the regulatory mechanism of cell wall formation and deposition, the role played by hormones, peptides, and signal transduction in regulating xylem cell differentiation, and genetic effects, based on the mainstream timber trees that have rich genome resources, such as poplar. Scientists will also try to screen out the major regulatory factors that contribute to the improvement of timber quality, proposing molecular design strategies and techniques for different timber materials, and creating a theoretical and technical ground for the improvement of timber quality.
Red Panda Research Center
Not long ago, Sichuan Provincial Department of Forestry officially inaugurated the operation of the Red Panda Protection and Research Center. Physically located at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base, the newly established center will house 20 red panda as its first group of guests. The Chengdu giant panda base also accommodates the largest captive red panda population of 64 heads. The base has built the country's largest enclosures and play grounds for red panda. A new red panda hall covering an area of more than 20,000 square meters will soon be completed and put into use.
The center will also study a range of issues concerning red panda’s breeding habits, genetic protection, diseases prevention and control, ecological traits among others, in an effort to enhance the red panda population, and boost the red panda population to 100 in number in the coming three or five years. The red panda at the center will be eventually nurtured into a self-sustaining captive population.
Meanwhile, the center plans to build a red panda protection platform, allowing domestic and overseas research institutions and specialists to study red panda, an endangered species in Sichuan, and work out the needed protection and utilization strategies and approaches.
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