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Sat, 22 Dec


Chandrashekar Hall, IMSc

Commemorative Event on “Three decades of India-China Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation: Trends and Prospects”

The following is the report of an event commemorating three decades of India China Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation. The views expressed here were those of the speakers’.

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Commemorative Event on “Three decades of India-China Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation: Trends and Prospects”
Commemorative Event on “Three decades of India-China Science and Technology (S&T) Cooperation: Trends and Prospects”

Time & Location

22 Dec 2018, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm IST

Chandrashekar Hall, IMSc, X6VW+FP7, 4th Cross Street, CIT Campus, Tharamani, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600113, India

About the event

On the 22nd of December 2018, Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) and the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) organised an event commemorating three decades of India China Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation. The event was held in Chandrashekar Hall, Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai. The event was attended by faculty members of the institute, students, academics, researchers and fellow C3S members.

The following questions set the agenda for the speakers:

  1. What are the ongoing S&T developments, within China and India, both in terms of policy and practice?
  2. What are the current trends of cooperation and competition between China and India in terms of S&T and which are the areas for collaboration in the future?
  3. How such collaboration in S&T could enhance their global positioning?
  4. What are the factors which could influence the S&T cooperation between China and India?

The Welcome and Inaugural Address was delivered by Commodore R.S. Vasan IN (Retd.), Director, C3S and Regional Director, National Maritime Foundation-Tamil Nadu. He spoke of the importance of the dimension of Science and Technology in examining the relations between India and China. The differences in trajectories with regard to the shipbuilding sector for China and India respectively were highlighted. The point was raised on how the considerably smaller numbers for India in this sector, calls for the examination of how the country fundamentally deals with S&T. The agenda was set by him stating the underlying, critical question of this commemorative event, which was about addressing the fundamental differences in the S&T environments between India and China, which in turn have led to China’s large scale success and India’s slow development. The importance of collaborative efforts, and the significance of learning from the Chinese during collaborative initiatives between the two countries were outlined. Lastly, Cmde. Vasan emphasized the importance of publications, by enlightening the audience about the large number of highly detailed S&T publications produced by China. The fall in the number of Indian publications have been a hindrance to our success in the field.

Session 1

Talks on Science and Technology developments within India and China

The first session consisted of two speakers who discussed S&T developments in both countries from a comparative and collaborative perspective. Dr T.R. Govindarajan, Professor, CMI & IMSc (Emeritus), spoke on High Energy Physics in China. He began with a theoretical understanding of what High Energy Physics is, and a demonstration of the scale at which work is being done in the field. Even though sciences have no borders with any countries, there remains to be a healthy competition which is a driving force. Since the presentation of the highly successful Standard Model of Particle Physics, making progress in the field has become increasingly difficult. A comparison was drawn between China’s Daya Bay reactor project and a similar Indian Neutrino observatory project, the latter proposed in 2000. While the Chinese project was successfully completed and yielded results within two months of completion, the Indian project is still unfinished, largely owing to the amount of time taken in order to receive approval and clearances. In addition, China publishes many more detailed journals in comparison to India, which is an area that needs to be improved upon. China’s latest venture with regard to particle physics can be seen in the country’s project to build a machine eight times as powerful as the Large Hadron Collider, at half the cost. There is an international nature to the scientist community in China, which  strengthens the country’s research. In closing, the importance of higher quality education in every state in India in order to provide incentive for investment in R&D in India was discussed. In matters of science, it is not important to think about China from a competitive perspective, but more from a perspective of what can be learned and how India needs to improve.

Mr L.V Krishnan, Former Director of Safety Research Group, Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic research; Member C3S spoke on prospects for India and China S&T cooperation. He spoke about the beginnings of S&T cooperation between the two countries, when both the GDPs were at a very different stage. China achieved high rates of growth in terms of hi-tech exports and research. He described the first joint cooperation agreement signed as a result of efforts made by Rajiv Gandhi as being excellent in terms of planning and cooperation. However, is its enactment, the joint committee has had no more than 6 meetings between 1989 and 2006, making it no more than a diplomatic document. The speaker also focussed on the increased Sino-Indian cooperation during Hu Jintao’s Presidency, and subsequently under President Xi in 2014, in terms of civil nuclear cooperation. It was also pointed out that there is still room for cooperation between the two countries, provided that hesitation and obstacles were set aside. There was an outline given on the differences in the development of S&T in the respective countries, and which agencies run the projects. Cooperation between the two countries has now largely been on remote sensing missions and space based meteorology, however many projects still need to come into fruition. With regard to possible steps for India to undertake in order to expand growth rates, it was suggested that young minds be encouraged to pursue R&D. This can be done by incentivizing them via  publishing their work in high impact research journals in universities. The importance of having a forum of Science Advisers and holding meetings with Chinese counterparts to enable decision-making on joint research and projects, cannot be undermined. The two major factors holding back Indian R&D are those in approvals and funding. However by capitalizing on our strengths, India is fully capable of exceeding in certain areas of S&T.

This was then followed by a highly participative Q&A session, in which government involvement in S&T in the respective countries was discussed. The differences in the political process in the implementation of a project was discussed. It was highlighted that in India, goals are set by different departments, with no unified advisory board to the government in order to finalise projects and set them in motion. The theme of investment was also discussed, where it was brought to the attention of the audience by Cmde. Vasan that China Academy of Sciences (CAS) has had tremendous foreign investment in order to fund their projects, which is something that India has not yet had the opportunity to receive. The topic of textbook learning to concept based learning was discussed, in which the importance of changes to the education system in India were acknowledged.

Session 2

Panel Discussion:  ‘In Technology We Trust : Outlook and Prospects of Technology Innovation in China and India’ –

The panel was moderated by Mr K. Satyanarayanan, Director of New Horizon Media, Chennai; Member C3S. He mentioned that it is significant to understand how China is organising, equipping and building world class organisations, at the scale it is.

The first panelist Mr Rajaram Muthukrishnan, Investor and Director of Voice Snap, Chennai, spoke on China’s approach in building their S&T capacity and world class S&T organisations. He approached the topic from Deng Xiaoping’s era, where a special focus on S&T was introduced for the first time in China. He spoke from a policy perspective, where China has one of the most incredibly organised structures in place. He highlighted the role of the highly integrated presence of the Communist Party in China in the country’s politics and military. Therefore S&T development in the country has a strong party orientation. In comparison, India’s defence sector does not benefit from having the same orientation. He also spoke of the Chinese national missions involving technocrats, and the factors of skill, speed and scale, which capture the identity of Chinese technological innovation. The number of Chinese expats who return home to Indians was then compared, which are fewer in number considering the fact that they are not sent with a focused mission. He highlighted the fact that giant commercial entities have also decided to set up their R&D centres in China, recognising the benefits. He ended his presentation by comparing Indian and Chinese growth respectively in the fields of aviation and high speed railways, on a positive note for India’s growing potential in the latter.

The next panelist was Mr Arjun Ramakrishnan, Cofounder of Design Squiggle. He spoke on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in India and China. He spoke of his experiences coaching entrepreneurs to improve their ideas in both countries, and how the Chinese are very systematic and methodological in their approach towards innovation. He illustrated the cookie cutter process that he developed in order to meet their needs, achieving innovation through a step by step process. He then spoke of his experiences in China using Alipay, the Metro card and Wechat and compared the Chinese equivalents of websites to their global counterparts. The success of these apps is an example of how China is easily capable of designing a solution by tapping into the emotions of their customers. He believes that a sense of accomplishment was established in China due to the fact that they are completely independent using their own applications, websites and payment gateways, and this should be emulated by India.

The last speaker on the panel was Mr Ananth Krishnan, Visiting Faculty, Brookings India; Member C3S, who spoke of the Second Wave of China’s ‘Going Out’ and its implications for India. Mr Krishnan focused on Chinese investment, both public and private in Indian companies, and how there is a new phase of Chinese companies going overseas. He spoke of how within India, the general impression of what is made in China is rather primitive, and Indians do not have a grasp on how far the Chinese have come. Many Chinese companies are making transitions into AI, and China has a lot of big data, which is currently becoming as precious as oil. While India is in possession of data, it is yet to be made a national priority. He brought to light the fact that more Chinese private companies are going abroad in order to acquire overseas technologies. A huge portion of Chinese investment in India is private, and around 7 billion dollars have been invested by China in the Indian tech sector. This investment has taken place with minimal government involvement, which indicates how little government participation has taken place on both sides. He concluded by stating that intentions of investment should not necessarily be viewed in a negative light, as it is largely business at the end of the day.

The panel was followed by a Q&A round, in which prospects for China in India were discussed, ranging from access to resources to space, satellites to pharmaceuticals. It was concluded that India is viewed by China as a convenient market to present their products. Failure and face value for China was also discussed, where Mr Ananth said that failure does not scare the private sector. However, Mr Rajaram pointed out that face value is what counts in the public sector. The Q&A session was concluded with a final point comparing the social credit system in China to Adhaar in India, where it was agreed upon that they are incomparable as concepts.

The summing up of the event and the vote of thanks was done by Mr. T.V Krishnamurthy, Investment Banker and Business Strategist; Member C3S. The importance of high quality publications featured in his feedback, along with the importance of the role that universities and educational institutions in India will play in the future for S&T growth. The fact that Chinese scientists return to their home country after conducting research abroad was highlighted, owing to the country’s enormous social, economic and political gain and incentives. There is a need to strengthen our research institutions, in order to become more indigenous in the field. He disagreed with points made about the autonomous nature of Chinese equivalents to global successes such as Alipay, Baidu and Weibo and their being the first of their kind. It was clarified that India has had their own payment gateways since 2006, and to a large extent the amount of revenue the Chinese apps are receiving is owing to the fact that they are monopolies. The importance of data in the race to global S&T innovation was stated, along with the importance of security in the process. Collaboration between universities and start-ups was recommended as the way forward for India.

(Compiled by Mahika Sri Krishna, Intern, C3S.)

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