Japanese Scholars ‘Mesmerized’ By Chinese Universities; What Makes China An Attractive Hub For Foreign Researchers?

China has become an increasingly attractive destination for Japanese research scholars to advance their scholarly pursuits. According to reports, many Japanese scholars are taking up research positions at universities and laboratories in China. 

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While China has traditionally welcomed engineers from Japanese firms, there is now a shift towards luring academics specializing in astronomy and other fundamental areas of science. 

Compared to Japan, where scholars face the challenge of limited job opportunities due to university budget cuts, China has experienced a surge in research program investments over the past two decades. 

This substantial increase in funding has propelled China closer to the United States in terms of both the quality and quantity of research papers produced.  

In biotechnology, life science, astronomy, and pedestal physics, China has attracted a substantial number of Japanese scholars. 

Although astronomy, a fundamental science, faces a scarcity of available positions in many parts of the world, China stands out as an exception. The Chinese government has made a conscious decision to foster research not only in applied science but also in basic science. 

The good funding opportunities and available positions in China attract talented individuals frustrated by limited prospects in their home countries.

Despite China’s high research criteria, getting posts is relatively easy due to the availability of opportunities, even among a big pool of academics. In Japan, on the other hand, a common difficulty is a lack of open positions. 

As one Japanese professor aptly said, “While the number of available positions is overwhelmingly large in China, it is overwhelmingly small in Japan.”

The report featured the story of Hiromu Kameoka, a Japanese researcher who became a group leader at the Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in September 2022. 

Kameoka, formerly an assistant professor at Tohoku University, established his team at the joint Shanghai-based center. It collaborates with the renowned British organization, the John Innes Center, known for its expertise in botanical studies. 

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According to the report, Kameoka was provided with a funding amount of approximately $640,000 to establish the laboratory and support five years of research.

In addition to Japanese researchers, previous reports also suggested that US scientists who worked on government-sponsored research at the US’ top national security laboratory in the past two decades have been lured into engaging in scientific work in China. 

China's Compound Eye space radar project

Factors That Are Attracting Japanese ResearchersTo China

Since the early 2000s, China has rapidly expanded its global presence in research and development.

Several think tanks and agencies have also revealed a significant shift in the scientific research landscape. China has even surpassed the United States in terms of scientific research output and “high-impact” studies. 

However, recent years have witnessed the emergence of challenges for China’s research ambitions. The escalating tensions between the United States and China have created obstacles for the two nations to engage in joint research. 

Experts suggest that this situation has hindered China’s aspirations to become the world’s leading country in basic science research.

Even though American and European scholars may encounter challenges when attempting to move to China due to significant differences in research culture and geopolitical tensions, the situation appears more favorable for Japanese researchers.

Shanghai Astronomy Museum

Despite varying research practices and cultural disparities, Japanese scholars seem to find opportunities and prospects within China’s research landscape, and they are increasingly drawn to China due to several compelling factors. 

China has the largest number of academics worldwide, making it an attractive destination for researchers seeking a vibrant academic community. Additionally, Beijing has made significant progress in research and development. 

The substantial investment has resulted in well-equipped laboratories and ample funding that provides scholars with the necessary resources to pursue their projects diligently. 

Furthermore, generous salaries and additional incentives create an enticing environment allowing scholars to fully immerse themselves in their research endeavors. 

The mix of opportunities, financial assistance, and favorable working circumstances makes China an intriguing option for Japanese scholars looking to further their academic careers and conduct the necessary research.