Progress in Science: India and China

I went to Switzerland to serve on a panel to review progress of one of their major research center in Interactive Multimodal Information Management.  The panel has 7 members out of which 3 were new this year.  Interestingly all three of these were of Chinese origin – one from Beijing, one from Hong Kong, and one from Singapore.  Since the reviewers are selected based on research leadership independent of Nationality and ethnicity, initially I thought that this was an interesting coincidence.  But is it?  Or is it a trend.  Is it that research balance is changing?

Just a few years ago, research papers at leading conferences and in journals were rarely from Chinese researchers from China.  There were many research papers by Chinese researchers but they were usually working outside China.  Same was true about Indians – most research papers in conferences and in journals by Indians were from outside India.  Today the number of research papers in International places are in significant numbers from Chinese researchers from China.  This is true in most areas of Computer Science and seems to be true in many areas of science and technology.  For Indians, the situation has not changes; still most of the research published is by Indians from outside India.

Few years ago, number of research papers by Chinese and Indians were about the same.  Now, there are clearly lot more Chinese authors than India authors.  In fact, most places Chinese names dominate.  And this trend seems to be increasing in favor of Chinese.

During my visit to China earlier this month, I clearly saw that the quality of research in our area at two Chinese universities that I visited was very good quality.  More interestingly, I think the number of Ph.D produced by Fudan university in computer science area is more than 30 every year.  I think that is probably close to, if not more than, the total Ph.D. production in India.  So the number of total Ph.D. production in China and India could be in completely different ranges – 2digits in India and 3 or 4 digits in China. 

So what happened to IITs?  And other great universities in India.  IITs are great because of the tough competition to get admissions there.  Most IIT graduates want to either go to USA for their graduate studies or want to go to Industry.  Most Masters degree students at IITs are from other universities and they also want to either go to USA for PhD or want to go to Industry.  And there are very few PhD candidates.  Those who are there, are mostly professors from smaller  universities.  Most professors in smaller engineer colleges do not have post graduate degrees.  Moreover, their salaries are usually so low that one start wondering why are they there.

Why is there so much discrepancy in India and China?   Indians are much better in English than Chinese hence there should be more papers by Indians for the same amount of research.  So the number of papers in English journals only suggests that the real situation is in more favor of Chinese.

The only explanantion that I can think of is that the discrepancy in infrastructure between India and China is not only in physical infrastructure, but is also in educational infrastructure also.  Shanghai and Bangalore show a true difference in how the physical infra structure has evolved in China and in India making Shanghai one of the best in the world and Bangalore one of the most chaotic place.  It appears that a similar thing is happening in educational infrastructure.

I do not know how China is achieving this, but if they continue the way there are in education, they are going to be one of the top technology power.  Good for them.  Being an Indian-American, however, I am concerned both as an American and as an Indian.

3 thoughts on “Progress in Science: India and China

  1. Santhosh

    I think the problem is again too many students chasing too few avenues for education in India. Consider this, about 200000 students wrote the CAT entrance exam for a few couple of thousands of seats recently. If India can come up with only handful of IITs and IIMs that are known for good education, a lot more students would prefer to go out of India to study and they would be just plain glad to get done with the studies and start making some money. What we need is access to universal education for all the children and maintain a certain degree of standard in our schools and groom them to get into universitites/colleges which have to be far more in number than it exists today. Such initiatives take time and it is too much to expect a government too concerned about survival for the duration of 5 years to worry about. 🙁
    For the past 3 months, I have been running from piller to post to get my son admitted to nursery and I find the standard of schools swinging from the mediocre to the best. I had to get up early in the morning to be the first in the queue to get the application form. 🙂 So far I applied in 10 schools. If this is the experience for nursery, I dread to think of the pain we would have to go to when my son is ready to go college. 🙂
    I prefer not to get into the angle of reservations at this point in time but that certainly complicates life in India as far as education goes.

  2. Andy Tai

    On this topic, what is more remarkable is to consider what happened in mainland China and India in the last, say, fifty years. India has been independent for more than 50 years, with no major wars, no political upheavals, and India has a democratic system of government. Even if India had some problems, India went through nothing like what happened in mainland China since 1949. Political movements, human-made economic diasters starving millions to death, and the most famous 10-year Culture Revolution that destroyed all education infrastructure at the time, universities and schools shut down, professors killed or sent to labor campus, students not going to classes but involved in class struggles and a pseudo-civil war fighting with each other as red guards with real guns and weaponary in the cities. The net result was that by 1976 when Mao died a whole generation of young Chinese had no formal education or lost their best years not obtaining the education they could have received in peace times, and when schools and universities re-opened there were not enough qualified professors or teachers to teach the incoming students. Mainland China in 1976 was in much worse shape than India. Many Chinese outside the mainland had consider that the mainland Chinese would have never recovered from such diaster and mainland China would forever remain backward. Advance sciences only existed in the fields related to nuclear bombs or the like. And the average young Chinese from the mainland would not have the opportunity to acquire the skills to work the type of research Ramesh worked on.

    In 1976, an average mainland Chinese dreamed of owning a bicycle, a refrigerator and a black and white TV. In 2006, mainland China produces many of the most advanced LCD televisions. And they just developed their own alternative to MPEG4, called AVS.

    So this does not provide an answer, but just add to the mystery.

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