China’s science and technology in 2022: expanding the space station, setting in motion a faster supercomputer, developing brand new drugs to treat certain diseases, and innovation in low-carbon technology.
Over the past decades, China has become one of the major players in the industry of science and technology. This is not just limited to the local scene; rather, they have grown their influence worldwide.
China is the Powerhouse of Science and Technology
There are different reasons for their growth. The fact that China has had the largest population in the world for centuries has become an advantage for them. Human capital is a resource they don’t need to worry about. At the same time, the labor market in the country leans toward academic meritocracy. This means that employers evaluate potential candidates based on their own merits. It ensures that employees have the necessary skills and knowledge to contribute productively to the institution.
Many scientists all over the world are also of Chinese origin. In 2020, there were 1.87 million researchers who came from China. Because of this, the country took over the USA in that regard. In the same year, the USA had 1.43 million researchers.
The science and technology sector in China has also received much support from the national government. They heavily invest in research and development, with growth rates going beyond what has been seen in the USA and the EU.
In the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, it was stated that they would increase self-reliance in the field of technology and innovation.
Wang Zhigang, the Minister of Science and Technology, said that “to achieve technological advancement, China increasingly needs the world, and the world increasingly needs China.” At the same time, the country has planned to “improve our ability to make innovations independently and do our own things well because we cannot ask for or buy the core technologies from elsewhere.”
Given these factors, there are many more advancements to expect for China’s science and technology industry in 2022.
China’s Science and Technology in 2022: Off to Outer Space
The Chinese Space Station, also called the “Tiangong Space Station”, will host a total of 6 astronauts from two different spaceships by the time this year ends.
The Wentian (问天) and Mengtian (梦天) laboratory modules will be launched this year. There will be two of each manned spacecraft and cargo spacecraft. Wentian will serve as the primary living area, while Mengtian will be used for the conduct of activities. They will depart from the Wenchang Space Launch Site and dock together with the Tianhe core module.
By doing so, it is expected that the size of the space station’s pressurized and unpressurized areas will increase from 20t to 60t. At the same time, the living space will increase from 50 cubic meters to 110 cubic meters.
Because of this, Chinese astronauts will receive more resources for their research, continuous communication lines with the ground, and storage space for their materials.
The Shenzhou-13 crew is also expected to return to Earth in April of this year. The crew members have already finished what they intended to do in outer space. There are also no problems in terms of their health. This will mark the end of the “Critical Technology Validation Phase,” which was initiated when the three Chinese astronauts of the Shenzhou-13 crew were launched last year.
The Shenzhou-14 crew and Shenzhou-15 crew are expected to fly to the Chinese Space Station this year as well.
According to Zhou Jianping, the chief designer of the Shenzhou program, experiments in the fields of “life sciences, biological science, material science, combustion science, microgravity fluid science, and basic physics” will be conducted on the space station.
China’s Science and Technology in 2022: An Even More Powerful Supercomputer
Last year, a team of Chinese researchers won the 2021 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Gordon Bell Prize for their project entitled, “Closing the ‘Quantum Supremacy’ Gap: achieving real-time simulation of a random quantum circuit using a new Sunway supercomputer.”
Quantum supremacy refers to the ability of a quantum device to solve problems that cannot be done by a classical computer within a reasonable timeframe. To determine if quantum supremacy has been obtained, researchers must be able to prove that a classical computer is incapable of solving the problem. At the same time, they must prove that the calculation can be done by the quantum device at a fast speed.
The simulation outlined in the research was able to perform 1.2 Eflops single-precision or 4.4 Eflops mixed-precision with the use of more than 41.9 million Sunway processors. The performance of the Sunway supercomputer outmatched that of the Summit supercomputer, which is the second fastest supercomputer in the world.
10,000 years would be needed to simulate a random quantum circuit (RQC) of the Google Sycamore quantum processor, if the Summit supercomputer were to be used. In contrast to this, only 304 seconds are needed to perform a similar task using the Sunway supercomputer.
This supercomputer can be used for advancements in molecular therapy and climate modeling, among others. Because of this, launching this device is on the horizon for China this year.
Last year, another group of Chinese scientists launched the Zuchongzhi 2.1, which is a superconducting quantum computing system. They started creating the prototype in December 2020. After five months, they developed its predecessor, Zuchongzhi. Finally, they launched Zuchongzhi 2.1 in October. This device performs even faster than the fastest one there currently is.
China’s Science and Technology in 2022: New Drugs are Being Developed
Last year, two drugs against COVID-19, which were developed in China, received the go signal for the conduct of clinical trials. The VV116 drug is in the first phase of clinical trials in Uzbekistan. Similarly, the FB2001 drug is in a phase I/II clinical trial in the USA. It is expected that conclusive results will come soon. This provides more ways out of the COVID-19 pandemic so that individuals sick with the virus can be treated safely and effectively.
Furthermore, a drug for solid tumors is undergoing clinical trials. This was developed by BeiGene, a biopharmaceutical company founded in China.
China’s Science and Technology in 2022: Achieving Carbon Neutrality
More efforts are being made to reach China’s carbon emissions peak and carbon neutrality by 2030 and 2060, respectively.
In November 2021, a test project was conducted at the Liaohe oil field, located in north-eastern China, for carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS). This was done for the purpose of creating a CCUS development model that will serve as the backbone for the expansion of such efforts within the country.
CCUS is an important factor in the move towards carbon emissions peak and neutrality. These processes capture and purify carbon dioxide emissions from industries, which are then injected again into the ground. Currently, construction of a regional carbon storage service base and expansion of the underground storage are underway.
Two months have passed since the new year started, but the rest of 2022 will still be filled with many more innovations in the industry of science and technology.