Lost in Translation: Scientists Have Motherlands



Lost in Translation: a series that highlights the difference between foreign government messaging to foreign audiences (often in English) and to domestic audiences (in the native language).

People’s Republic of China (PRC) leaders regularly highlight to international audiences the benefits of a global community that shares technology, but domestically emphasize nationalism and the necessity to control core technologies.

International Audiences

To international audiences, General Secretary Xi Jinping regularly promotes the ideal of science and technology as a global enterprise to benefit all humanity.  For example, during his Keynote Speech the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 25, 2021, he said:

Scientific and technological advances should benefit all humanity rather than be used to curb and contain other countries’ development. China will think and act with more openness with regard to international exchange and cooperation on science and technology. We will work with other countries to create an open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory environment for scientific and technological advancement that is beneficial to all and shared by all.”[1]

Domestic PRC Audiences

To domestic audiences, Xi strikes a different tone by declaring that national interest should be the primary motivation for domestic science and technology workers.  During a speech to domestic scientific leaders on September 11, 2020, he said:

Science has no borders, but scientists have motherlands. Our country's S&T undertakings have made historical achievements. These are achievements for which generation after generation of scientists, pledged and dedicated to serving the country, have advanced wave upon wave, and struggled continuously. From the older generation of scientists such as Li Siguang, Qian Xuesen, Qian Sanqiang, and Deng Jiaxian, to a great new batch of outstanding scholars who grew up after the establishment of the New China, such as Cheng Jingrun, Huang Danian, and Nan Rendong, they have all been models of the patriotic scholar. I hope that S&T workers at large do not forget their original intention, keep their mission firmly in mind, adhere to the supremacy of the national interest and the people's interest, inherit and carry forward the outstanding character of older generations of scholars who cherished the motherland and served the people, carry forward the spirit of the “Two Bombs, One Satellite” project, actively undertake to bear the heavy burden of historic responsibility, and merge their own scientific pursuits into the magnificent undertaking of building a modern Socialist country.”[2]

[1] https://weforum.ent.box.com/s/7p4cs71tyy60yjbkbelomf02j83cgwor

[2] http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2020-09/11/c_1126483997.htm