【中国日报】Science links integral to strong ties
China and France will continue to enhance scientific cooperation in fields ranging from biomedicine to artificial intelligence, contributing to the socioeconomic development of both countries and the world, officials and scientists have said.
On Feb 25, top science officials from China and France met in Beijing to lay the roadmap for future Sino-French scientific cooperation. Both countries agreed to prioritize cooperation in public health, agriculture, artificial intelligence, advanced material, space, environment and particle physics.
Wang Zhigang, minister of science and technology, said Sino-French scientific cooperation has been an important driving force in bilateral ties. China will continue to enhance and expand practical cooperation, and improve planning and policy support for more effective communication and collaboration, he added.
Frederique Vidal, France's minister of higher education, research and innovation, said China and France have a tradition of friendly cooperation in many major scientific fields. She hoped both sides could work together in making Sino-French scientific cooperation more robust, open and with stronger mutual trust.
This year marks the 55th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between the People's Republic of China and France. Last year, the two nations also celebrated their 40th anniversary of establishing state-level scientific cooperation, featuring fields such as nuclear energy, space and aviation, information technologies and biomedical research.
In 1997, China and France founded their first joint laboratory —？the Sino-European Laboratory of Informatics, Automation and Applied Mathematics (LIAMA) — in Beijing. The lab has conducted important research ranging from detailed mapping of brain networks to artificial intelligence chips.
Tao Jianhua, the director of LIAMA, said the Chinese and French governments have shown great interest and foresight for developing artificial intelligence, and the two nations can complement each other in future research.
"China excels at AI-related applications and has a massive market, while France is very good at creating original work in basic algorithms and theories thanks to its strong proficiency in mathematics," Tao said.
"By working together, China can improve its innovation capability in AI-related basic research, and France can gain insights on the Chinese market and see how AI technologies will perform in real life," he added.
Building on the foundation of Sino-French cooperation, LIAMA has also expanded its collaborations to include other science heavyweights, including Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and others, Tao said.
"China has seen tremendous development in its science and technology sectors in the last few decades," Tao said. "China is now even leading in certain fields, but it is still not strong at creating original breakthroughs, so collaborating with other countries is very important," he added.
Biomedicine is another field that benefited greatly from and contributed to Sino-French cooperation. In March, the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced that a new vaccine against four serotypes of norovirus, a common pathogen that causes vomiting and diarrhea, is currently awaiting final approval for clinical trial in China.
The institute was established in 2004 by a Sino-French agreement to cooperate on prevention and control of emerging and reemerging diseases, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai municipality and Institut Pasteur as co-founders.
Institut Pasteur is a French non-profit private foundation and one of the world's leading research institutions for studying infectious diseases, pathogens and vaccine developments.
In 2017, the lnstitut Pasteur of Shanghai was also the first in Asia to successfully develop a vaccine against the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus that can cause abnormalbrain development of the fetus. By the end of this year, the vaccine would likely enter clinical trials in Africa, said Tang Hong, director general of the institute.
"China and France have a long and fruitful history of cooperation in research for outbreak preparedness, a cornerstone for safeguarding public health globally," Tang said.
"In the globalization era, cross-border transmission of diseases is a major public health challenge. Effective prevention and control of endemic diseases require coordinated international cooperation," he added.
For the past 15 years, the institute has utilized the extensive global network of Institut Pasteur to provide much-needed expertise and resources in tackling health challenges, including in Southeast Asian and African countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, Tang said.
In 2014, the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai helped Cambodia diagnose that the EV71 virus was responsible for an outbreak of hand-mouth-foot disease, which mainly affects young children. The institute also is working on new medicine to treat malaria patients who are resistant to the common artemisinin drug.
"These diseases are rampant in the tropical areas and developing countries in Southeast Asia and Africa," Tang said. "It is our mission to provide solutions to bolster the global defense against epidemics."
Fernando Arenzana, foreign director of the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, said Sino-French scientific cooperation in biomedicine and public health have been very fruitful, with extensive collaboration between top government agencies, institutions and companies.
"We have made brilliant, transformative contributions together," he said.
The keys to successful collaboration are effective communication and the ability to identify common problems, and conduct well-designed projects to work together in solving these problems, he added.