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President Dou Xiankang makes a speech in the forum held to mark 70th anniversary of PRC founding
Author:  Date:2019-09-10  Clicks:

Editor’s notes: On the morning of August, 16, the first round of the serial forum of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China took place in Beijing. Dou Xiankang, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, space physicist, President of Wuhan University was invited to attend the forum. Here is Mr.Dou’s speech and his communication with netizens:

Good morning, everyone

It’s my pleasure to be here. I am engaged in the study of space physics. With the development of the People's Republic of China, the discipline of space physics, starting from scratch, has gone through a tough process to become an advantaged one. At the call of Academician Ouyang, who gives equal stress to science popularization and innovation, I’d like to do some science popularization work at first.

People often confuse space physics with astrophysics. Astrophysics delves into  a larger scale of time and space, researching the state, shape and evolution of celestial bodies. The scope of space physics is relatively small, ranging from ten kilometers above the surface of the earth to the sun surface. This discipline is the outcome of human’s aerospace endeavor. The Aerospace career provides a basis for space physics exploration so as to carry out researches on the phenomenon and the law of its development in such an interval, which in turn can ensure the safety of human space project.

Mr. Zhao Jiuzhang is a must-mention when it comes to space physics who is engaged in high-altitude atmospheric physics. He is the chief designer of Dongfanghong-1 satellite and one of the co-founders of our nation's satellite industry. Mr. Zhao initiated the development of China's space physics, an observation-based discipline. He had led the first group of space physics practitioners to start with the tedious and toilsome observation groundwork in the early years Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, which laid the foundation of China’s space physics.

 Since the Reform and Opening up, the Party Central Committee's supports on science and technology and the rapid progress in this field has brought China's space physics into decades of rapid development. The progress is quite obvious in two aspects. The first is the rapid expansion of the talent team. Ever since the Reform and Opening-up, we have produced seven academicians and 32 winners of the National Outstanding Youth Fund in this field. What’s more, it is precious and gratifying that there are more outstanding young people be part of this career now, leading to a rosy prospect for further rapid development of space physics in China.

In addition, as we know, in the experimental subject of space physics for the past few years, China has a binary satellite project in space exploration, a very good plan for frontier research in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency). Another extremely important program is the meridian project, which deploys a large number of radio and optic equipment along 120 degrees longitude, detecting the near-earth environment completely and effectively with the Earth rotation.

I was admitted to China University of Science and Technology as the champion in Suzhou City of Anhui Province in 1983. Then, I came back to motherland after obtaining my master's degree and doctorate degree in France in 1995. I had a good opportunity to work with my tutor’s research direction as a shortcut when first returned China. However, my tutor encouraged me to start a new field of radar research independently based on what I learned in France. In 2017, I was elected as an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. All the work in the materials when I applied for academician is done after my returning home. People are familiar with hundreds of kilometers above the sky, where satellites can detect a lot of clouds and rains below the lower troposphere by radar. But people have little knowledge about the near space of 20-120 kilometers, not such a far space from us, and this is exactly what I am studying. Why? Because the atmosphere is so clean that there are no tracers. Satellites can't come down, and balloons can't go up into this area.

The development of such technologies as laser and radar makes density detection in the atmosphere relatively easy via the laser reflex, but the detection of atmospheric density is quite difficult, requiring more measurement on the drift of laser frequency than simply the laser frequency. Why is it difficult to measure the laser frequency drift? This is because that there is no tracer in the upper atmosphere, the atmospheric motion has a very broad-band spectrum, reaching several GHZ spectra, and the corresponding frequency drift of atmospheric motion is about two to three orders of magnitude lower than that of very wide-band. Therefore, it is an international challenge to detect small frequency shift from wide-band signals. Fortunately, our research group has built up a set of equipment to tackle the key problems through our decades’ tenacious efforts.

Since the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the General Secretary has been emphasizing the high-quality development and the role of innovation in science and technology. With the accumulation of past researches, we began to step foot in something that foreigners have not done. I would like to give two examples. The first is the quantum lidar. As we know, in order to improve the detection capability, we have to pay a huge price either to increase the external aperture or the laser energy in terms of traditional lidar. However, thanks to the co-operation with Academician Pan Jianwei, we found a unique way of using single photon up-conversion technology, improving the quantum efficiency and reducing the atmospheric stray light to eliminate noise.

The first quantum lidar worldwide in this technology has nearly three orders of magnitude higher detection capability than its counterpart in the United States. What are the advantages? Small size, light weight, stable system as well as greatly reduction of the solar noise. In the past, lidar can only work at night and hardly available during cloudy and rainy weather conditions, but now we are not restricted for the signal-noise ratio is rather high. In the future, the radar adopted this technology can be put on airplanes and satellites for airborne and satellite-borne experiments.

Secondly, Meridian Project Phase II is about to start. Compared with the first phase, I’d rather say its biggest contribution is not the over-a-dozen-time investment increase, but that in such a plan, we first put forward the utilization of China’s exclusive equipment. For example, one of the core equipment, which our research team are working with, is expected to detect 500-1000 kilometers of atmospheric condition. It uses helium atoms as tracers to build the first helium detection equipment in the world, to ensure the satellites’ safe operation in the future.  

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Long period of 70 glorious years have we gone through, there is still a long way to go towards a stronger country of science and technology. President Xi Jinping has said that each generation has its own long march, and each generation should struggle to complete their march. As a representative of Mesozoic scientists, I will continue leading my team to complete the scientific research tasks I undertake.

At the same time, I have another identity. As the president of Wuhan University, I also have another very important responsibility or an even more important one-- to provide young people with better education, guide them to love science and our nation. Through the efforts from generations of Chinese young scientists, we will definitely forge ahead towards a technologically stronger China. Thank you all.

More participants in the first forum were Ouyang Ziyuan, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and first chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Project; Zhou Jianping, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of the Chinese Manned Space Engineering; Yang Le, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and researcher of the Chinese Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science; Zhou Qinan, academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of “Jiaolong” manned submersible. In the subsequent interaction, the five academicians shared their success stories with netizens. What questions did netizens ask President Dou? What are his answers?                                

Xiaoyu 99: Professor Dou, from chasing to leading in space physics, how did we break through the bottleneck in developing science and technology?

Dou:This is a frequently discussed issue in China for the past two years. My answer may not be the best one, but I’ll share my understanding. Firstly, it should be made clear that technical bottleneck has been here for such a long time. Things were even worse and there are more restrictions in the past, especially when the People's Republic of China was just founded. As 70 years go by, significant achievements have been made in the field of science and technology in China.

So how to solve the problem? From my point of view, the first and foremost task is to build up talent groups. We should introduce foreign talented people with an open mind and welcome more outstanding young people. These difficulties cannot be dealt with unless proficient, ambitious and devoted youngsters.

Secondly, our country has a number of bottlenecks to break through, such as chips, engines and materials. But as we know, what is more important in the development of technology? It is necessary to give more national investment in basic research, on the talents, through policies and via a good atmosphere. We can partly solve the problem of current bottleneck by imitation. The basic research is the key to overcome more new technological difficulties in the future.

In conclusion, to solve the problem of China's bottleneck, we need, first, determination and concentration and second, patience. After all, China is a big country with abundant human resources. As long as we are determined to build up a good talent team and do well in basic research, there will be fewer bottlenecks in the future.

Cherry blossom castle: I am a freshman admitted to Wuhan University this year and I am very excited to hear your whole speech. You mentioned you returned to China in 1995, could you please share with us your feelings of studying abroad in that period? In addition, as the only university president in this year's speech, what message do you have for us freshmen who are interested to work on scientific exploration in the future?

Dou: I was sent abroad to study by Chinese government in 1989.When I learned that I was going to study abroad, my thoughts were very simple. I felt it not easy for my parents to bring up four children. In the future, I hoped to provide my parents with a better life. After going to France, I was deeply impressed. At that time, we had to shift several buses to arrive at Beijing airport where there were few planes. The first day in Paris, I saw the road thronged with cars and traffics, like the modern Beijing city. As a young generation, I was wondering that why we Chinese lived much worse than they did even though we had large population and were so diligent and hard-working? So, to be honest, after my graduation as a PHD student, although I got chance to stay in France or go to other countries at that time, I came back to China.

Over the past 20 years, I have been in charge of the recruitment of talents for a long time in universities. I admire scientists like Qian Xuesen and his generation who had abandoned the advantageous living conditions of the United States and returned to China to start the scientific career, providing the basic guarantee for the safety of the Chinese nation. Our generation who entered university after the reform and opening up are so lucky. We are the witnesses of China's reform and opening up for twenty or thirty years. Now, in retrospect, I do not regret this experience. At that time, I did not expect to be an academician or president, I thought it would be fulfilling for me to make contributions to the university. Now, I believe, it is mainly up to you to help China become the world's first-class technological power by 2035 or 2050. This is my expectation for college students.

A message to freshmen: China is a big country in the world yet with such an unbearable history. Therefore, compared with those in other countries, Chinese intellectuals have another unique responsibility, that is, building a strong country. These sufferings are Chinese exclusive memory, so Chinese intellectuals all have a dream of a strong nation. Now young people live in relatively developed society, but I still hope that they could maintain such a pursuit of combining personal dreams with the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This is the first word I have for you.

Secondly, I recently had the opportunity to report to Premier Li Keqiang face to face, pointing out that young people's willingness to work hard and concentrate is weakening in the light of some changes in basic education in China. We should strive to become a stronger country in science and technology. In the core and most difficult areas, verbal efforts and an easy work can never lead to any achievement. Therefore, young people should upheld lofty ideals to understand the core elements of science and technology and concentrate. Only in this way can the young people lead our country to a scientifically and technologically strong nation.

Rewritten by Qin Zichang

Edited by Shen Yuxi and Hu Sijia


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