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Opinion
Adam Minter

Big Science Faces Big Problems in China

Corruption and cronyism weaken the country's research establishment.
There's plenty of money in Chinese research, but also plenty of cronyism.

There's plenty of money in Chinese research, but also plenty of cronyism.

Photographer: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

As in so many other things, China's seeking to play a leading role in 21st century science. And it's using a familiar weapon: money.

Last week, Chinese physicists announced that they’d completed the initial design for a massive high-energy particle collider, which could become operational around 2025. The project -- which may cost $3 billion and stretch for more than 60 miles -- is just the latest in a string of Chinese “big science” initiatives designed to boost national prestige and produce lucrative spinoff technologies. At a time when money for basic research is increasingly difficult to obtain in the U.S. and Europe, China sees an opportunity to seize the global scientific vanguard.