To suppress the growth of Chinese science and technology and therefore retard China’s rise, the Trump administration has staged a strangulation-style warfare tactic against Chinese tech companies, with Huawei, the world’s largest telecom equipment maker and the unparalleled leader in 5G, as the top target.
On Dec. 1, 2018, Canada, at the request of the U.S. Government, unlawfully arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO and deputy chair and a daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei. On May 15, the U.S. Commerce Department announced the addition of Huawei to the Entity List, banning it from purchasing technologies or products from any American companies without governmental approval.
Under the pressure of American authorities, some tech companies in the U.S. and other countries have chosen to cease to cooperate with Huawei.
Worries are rising both in China and around the world as to whether Huawei could survive such a deadly blow. In response to the popular concerns, Ren Zhengfei, who had kept a low profile with rare public appearances before Washington began picking on Huawei, has greatly increased public exposure by accepting numerous interviews with Chinese and foreign media.
Instead of showing depression or anger, Ren demonstrated plenty of optimism, confidence, wisdom and reason. Despite the various messages contained in his interviews, the main points could be boiled down to Huawei’s conviction that its ultimate success is a result of its selfless aim to seek common prosperity with its partners, clients and consumers, its continuous efforts in R&D and preparations for difficult times like what it is experiencing now. His other major concern is the strengthening of China’s education, especially basic education and rural education.
“The core issue of U.S.-China trade friction after all is the competition in education,” Ren repeatedly stressed in almost all the interviews. “I’m deeply concerned with education not for the sake of Huawei’s interests, but for the future of our nation. Without systemic and quality education starting from solid basic education, China may fail in the fierce competition in the world. China’s future lies in successful education,” Ren pointed out.
Few people know better than Ren the importance of abstract and boring basic scientific research. Without such research, which takes years or decades of time and tremendous amounts of investment, it would have been impossible for Huawei to make breakthroughs in such vital fields as IC chips and operating systems. For years, Huawei has lured tens of thousands of talented scientists to work on abstruse theories, which may lead to revolutions in technologies.
Yet Ren is still anxious because he is aware that there is still a huge gap between the development level of Chinese education and that of advanced Western countries, especially the U.S.
As a teacher, I have the same concern. Compared with the prevalent star-chasing culture dominating Chinese media and influencing Chinese adolescents and youth, advocacy for better education has been relatively feeble and measures for optimizing China’s education have been far from satisfactory.
I’d like to focus on one of the key areas that calls for immediate attention: the revolutionizing of teaching methods, especially of science education. It’s vitally important because the emergence of challenges and problems hindering the progress of humanity is outpacing the creation of qualified talents to take the challenges and solve the problems.
Besides, despite the substantial increase in the number of graduates of higher education over the years, the overall quality of these graduates is barely satisfactory. While several factors are responsible, the chief one is the outdated teaching methods in most universities and colleges. For the average mind, science is too difficult to understand and most students find the teacher-dominated lectures too lengthy, boring and inefficient, which results in students’ high absenteeism and poor classroom performance.
One of the solutions is the adoption of AI technology. I was impressed by a video demonstrating a virtual laboratory simulator where students can perform experiments with mathematical equations that simulate what would happen in a real-world lab. With numerous advantages, it can not only visualize abstract concepts and complex process, but can greatly reduce the cost and danger of performing experiments in a real lab.
In addition, more resources should be put into rural education as advocated by Ren; only when children at the bottom of society can enjoy equally good education as urban children can China become truly powerful.
(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)