This project investigates the making of science policy in China around genetically modified organisms. While science and technology (S&T) have become increasingly important in China's innovation push, the process through which S&T policies have been made is virtually unknown, even to scholars of Chinese S&T. The proposed research reveals the complexity of making policies surrounding biotechnology in China, focusing in particular on research on and the commercialization of genetically modified (GM) crops.

GM related policy-making, in China as well as elsewhere, has involved a variety of actors from the scientific community, the public and media, and non-governmental organizations concerned with environmental protection. Consideration of international trade and regulation has also been an important dimension in the GM policy-making process. This research addresses the complexity in formulating China's policy of research and commercialization of GM crops by employing multiple methods of analysis and a variety of data sources. The researcher will conduct a content analysis of documents published by the Chinese government and other participants such as international environmental groups, media coverage and other public discourse. The researcher will also interview scientists, policy analysts, and other stakeholders in the policy-making process. This project investigates factors that have prompted changes in China's policies on public research investment, biosafety, food safety, trade, and intellectual property rights.

With this framework, the research is expected to enrich scholarly understanding of agenda-setting in China's science policy-making process and shed light on the interactions between science and society in China. The research explores the role of scientists and other stakeholders in order to contribute a better understanding of China's policy-making process to the STS literature on science policy.

Project Report

Through interviewing key stakeholders in the formulation of policies pertaining to the research and commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in China, collecting documents regarding the research, policy, commercialization, biosafety, food safety, and social impacts of GMOs in China, analysing patents associated with China’s GM rice, and analysing the media coverage of GMOs in leading Chinese newspapers and magazines, the project tries to open the "black box" of the process through which China’s science and technology (S&T) policy, especially that related to GMOs, has been formulated and has evolved. Indeed, China’s S&T policy making process has become more pluralistic, showing characteristics no different from those in making such policy in other countries. The subject of the project is at the intersection of increasingly important policy concerns and some intriguing theoretical questions in the studies of S&T policy. The project explores not only the role of scientists in making policies related to their own interests, but also the involvement of a variety of actors – from government officials, environmentalists and NGOs, the media, to the public – in the science policy-making process, therefore building up a baseline for the better understanding of China’s S&T policy-making process and filling in the missing gap in the literature. The project is also of direct relevance to the growing interests among government officials and policy-makers who have become concerned about the development of China’s science and technology, especially the consequences and impacts of the rise of China as a technological power.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Linda Layne
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Suny System Administration
United States
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