China continues to increase funding for fundamental science, including mathematics, physics, and biology. The studies are considered the basis of scientific and technological innovation. Professor Caucher Birkar, a Fields Medal winner, has been teaching mathematics at Tsinghua University since 2021. He tells us why he made a career move to China from the UK.
CAUCHER BIRKAR 2018 Fields Medal Winner, Professor at Tsinghua University "I was in the UK for like twenty years, and that's a very long time in terms of academic life and I just felt that I need some change. On the academic side, China also has some of the top universities in the world. For example, like Tsinghua. I knew that the student at Tsinghua are very strong. After two years of interaction with them, I can tell you that there are as good as those at Cambridge or any other top universities in the world."
HUANG FEI Sanya, Hainan Province "China has been steadily increasing R&D spending since 1995, but the majority of the funding has been going to experimental development and applied research. Why is there a need to increase the ratio of funding devoted to basic science?"
CAUCHER BIRKAR 2018 Fields Medal Winner, Professor at Tsinghua University "If you want to have very strong technological sector, economic sector and so on, medical and really about life and so on, you need strong basic sciences. One of the things from my field that is algebraic geometry, and there are some spaces in this field, they are called elliptic curves. There were studies long time ago, two hundred years ago. And then in the last few decades, people realized that you can use these to make communication secure when it comes to computers, you know, talking to each other and so on. So when you go to the bank and use your card, or when you send your emails and you don't want other people to read, it basically uses very pure mathematics, so there are so many examples."
HUANG FEI Sanya, Hainan Province "How would you assess China's environment in developing basic science and research?"
CAUCHER BIRKAR 2018 Fields Medal Winner, Professor at Tsinghua University "Now in mathematic, China has become more and more strong, and another important thing is the fact that there is a plenty of funding at the moment. In many countries like in Europe, the funding situation actually has gotten worse and worse in the last twenty years, but in China is actually the opposite. I think it has been increasing. It could help not only scientists in China, but it could also help in the mathematical and scientific community around the world. Because if people cannot find a job or funding in Europe, then they could come to China to study. And in fact, that's exactly what has been going on in the last couple of years."
HUANG FEI Sanya, Hainan Province "What would you say to international scientists who are interested in working in China, but maybe have some reservations?"
CAUCHER BIRKAR 2018 Fields Medal Winner, Professor at Tsinghua University "Working in China can be very very satisfying. Coming here, spending some time even like a sabbatical for a few months, or even be here for a couple of years, I think it's definitely very much worth it. Don't just look at whether they write in newspapers and so on. Come and see the reality."