On Thursday, China had formally approved the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), the draft outline of which was passed by the National People’s Congress as it closed its six-day annual session. Among its key projects is the building of a hydropower base on the lower reaches of Yarlung-Zangbo which refers to the section of the river in Tibet just before it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh, a Sichuan-Tibet railway near the Indian border and a push for self-sufficiency in emerging industries such as Artificial Intelligence.

A railway line would also be built from Xigaze in Tibet to Gyirong on the Tibet-Nepal border. Not only that, the FYP put emphasis on access to key border highways including the G219 national highway which runs along the entire length of India-China border in Xinjiang and Tibet.  India had announced its concern over the building over four dams on the upper and middle reaches, the first of which was Zangmu that had been operationalized in 2015. Indian officials are monitoring flows of the river closely through individual assessments and hydrological data provided by China under a bilateral agreement. 

China’s Five Year Plan focusses on scientific and technology self-reliance which can be perceived as the result of emanating global tensions with the United States. The 14th Five Year Plan that highlights China’s socio-economic development over the next decade was approved on 11th March.

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The 14th Five Year Plan that highlights China’s socio-economic development over the next half decade was approved on 11th March. It aims to create stronger ties between academia and industry and to improve evaluations of the results of such collaborations.  Some researchers fear that this could make Chinese science less transparent and therefore distort academia too. The world is entering a very interesting stage with Chinese science,” says Joy Zhang, a sociologist at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK who has extensively studied Chinese science. 

In addition to that, the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang made statements at the Annual Meeting of National People’s Congress, the highest decision making body. The plan unearthed a lower annual increase in science spending, but rather a rise in the proportion of science spending devoted to basic research. The strained US-China relationship has led to this shift on self sufficiency, added Yang Wei, a current adviser to and former head of the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the nation’s major research-funding body.

Mu- Ming Poo, a neuroscientist and scientific Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Neuroscience in Shanghai said, “The US-China conflict was a wake up call for China”. Areas of focus now include brain science, artificial intelligence, quantum information, genomics, clinical medicine and both deep-space and deep-sea exploration. The plan is seeking to create a “strategic research force for the nation”, adds Yang Wei. 

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