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The 2018 Physics World Special Report on China is out now

14 Sep 2018 Michael Banks

Last week researchers in China released a conceptual design report for a huge 100 km circular collider, dubbed the China Electron Positron Collider (CEPC). While it is not known whether the $6bn CEPC, which would collide electrons with positrons at energies around 240 GeV, will attract funding and indeed ever be built, it is yet another example of China’s rise as a scientific powerhouse.

The boom, which shows no sign of abating, was in part helped by the introduction of the 1000 Talents programme a decade ago. Designed to persuade top Chinese researchers who have spent time abroad to return home, the policy has been a roaring success with many scientists bringing back experience of working in top labs from around the world.

Cover of the 2018 special report on China

Yet there has been one gaping hole in the success of that programme, namely its inability to attract foreign-born researchers to make a permanent move to China. In this year’s report – the fourth Physics World special report on physics in China following publications in 2011, 2016 and 2017 – we examine a recent document released by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China indicates a new shift in emphasis in China’s talent-recruitment drive. Through the new policy, the Chinese government is ramping up its quest to attract non-Chinese scientists, recognizing that the country needs to foster a more collaborative approach to become truly innovative.

One foreign scientist frustrated by career progression in China is the astronomer Richard de Grijs. Originally from the Netherlands, he spent eight years in Beijing at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, before leaving for Australia earlier this year. Writing in the special report, however, he points out that he was told on “multiple occasions” that his ambitions to get a new position in the country had been “cut short” because of his foreign citizenship. De Grijs was also informed that he didn’t receive government funding he had applied for because he was not Chinese.

Still, the issues faced by de Grijs – and others like him – will need rectifying if China hopes to welcome more foreign scientists, especially if the country builds the CEPC in the coming decade.

Here is a run-down of what’s in the issue:

Building the next collider – Yifang Wang, director of China’s Institute of High Energy Physics, discusses the country’s plan to build a huge 100 km particle collider

Taking a lead on renewables – As China begins to lead the world in alternative forms of energy, Dave Elliott, from Open University in the UK, look at the impact this will have

A new vision for research – Qionghai Dai, head of Tsinghua University’s Broadband Network and Digital Media Lab, outlines his lab’s work in the burgeoning field of computational photography

My Chinese experience – Richard de Grijs from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, describes how his eight years in China have benefited his research

I hope you find this special report interesting, and if you’d like to share your thoughts on it, please get in touch by e-mailing us at

Listen to this week’s edition of the Physics World Weekly podcast, which features a discussion about the 2018 special report and the China Electron Positron Collider. 

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