The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, studied Chemical engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the Communist Party graduated from Harbin’s Military Engineering Institute specializing in the design of Automated Missiles. The Premier, Li Keqiang has a PhD in Economics , and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, is a military and civil construction Engineer.
The same sort of ratio of engineers and scientists at top positions could be found at all levels of the Chinese government. Scientists and Engineers are the most admired and respected people in China, and to become politician you better have a degree in science or engineering, and prove that you have a highly disciplined mind.
Since 2009, China has replaced the U.S. as the world’s number one high-technology exporter.
Recent studies found that Chinese scientists salaries have grown exponentially over the last couple of decades, and funding for Research and Development has reached a level competitive with most Western countries.
“The Chinese government has placed emphasis through funding, reform, and societal status on science and technology as a fundamental part of the socio-economic development of the country as well as for national prestige.
China has made rapid advances in areas such as education, infrastructure, high-tech manufacturing, academic publishing, patents, and commercial applications and is now in some areas and by some measures a world leader.
China is now increasingly targeting indigenous innovation and aims to reform remaining weaknesses.” – Wikipedia
The focus is “Techno-nationalism” which puts science and technology as vital for achieving economic and political goals as well as national prestige. Lacking indigenous technological intellectual property and innovation are seen as key national problems.
In 2006, former Premier Wen Jiabao , who is a geomechanical engineer, stated:
“Without independent innovation China would be unable to claim an equal place in the world or achieve national honor”
In 2010, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) which compares pupils skills in reading and science in many countries discovered that among the thirty-four countries assessed United States ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, while China’s ranked 1st, 1st, and 1st in all above categories.
As one of the researcher, Andreas Schleicher put it “You get an image of a society that is investing in its future, rather than in current consumption.”
Today in China the most impressive buildings in poor provinces are schools. In the West, it is more likely to be a shopping center, and in Africa it would be the residence of the local governor.
Transformational leaders even in the West are scientists like German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has a doctorate in physical chemistry, and, going back a little bit, Margaret Thatcher earned a degree in chemistry.
In Africa we have to start paying attention to the kind of people we elect or nominate for office.