Wen – on the scene after the Sichuan earthquake struck
In a 2-hour conversation with Science Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in the heart of Beijing on 30 September, Wen, 66, spoke candidly and forcefully, without notes, on everything from social and economic development being the “wellspring” of science and technology to cultivating scientific ethics and reducing China’s reliance on fossil fuels. Here are highlights edited for clarity and brevity; a more complete version is posted on the Science Web site.
Bruce Alberts: You were famous all over the world for going to the site of the earthquake as a professional geologist immediately afterwards and having a great effect on China’s response. Could you tell us more about your response to the earthquake and what you see in the future in the way of earthquake protection for China?
Wen Jiabao: When the Wenchuan earthquake occurred on 12 May, I was sitting in my office. Beijing shook, too. My instinct told me it was an earthquake. I instantly knew this disaster would affect a large area and the devastation would be severe.
I decided to go to the scene immediately. I understood clearly the importance of the [initial] 72 hours and especially the importance of the first day in saving people’s lives. Simply put, the faster the better.
B.A.: I assume that what you did in the earthquake is related to your new campaign to implement something you call “The Scientific Outlook on Development.” I think most of us don’t understand exactly what that is. Could you explain what the plans are and how Chinese scientists are going to contribute?
W.J.: The number-one principle is to put people first. The second is comprehensive development, the integration of economic development with social development, the integration of economic reform with political reform, the integration of an opening-up and inclusive approach with independent innovation, and the integration of advanced civilization with traditional Chinese culture. Thirdly, we need to resolve the disparities–rich-poor disparity, regional disparity, and urban-rural disparity–in our country’s developmental process. Fourthly, sustainable development: That is, to meet the challenges of population, resources, and environmental protection faced by a population of 1.3 billion in its modernization process. We want to achieve sustainable development by adopting a resource-conserving and environment-friendly approach. These four goals cannot be achieved without science and technology or without innovations.
Plenty of depth to the abridged and the original interview. A political and scientific coup for Science magazine.
Good reading, as well. There was a talented translator or two involved somewhere inside the process.