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China’s Nobel ambitions on show as dozens of science laureates meet in Shanghai

Shanghai hosted one of the largest gatherings of Nobel laureates in the world last week, with 44 Nobel Prize-winning scientists in the city for a government-sponsored forum with the lofty goal of discussing science and technology for the “common destiny of mankind”.

The four-day forum, which brought together young Chinese scientists and the cream of the international scientific crop, was a signal of China’s ambitions for its own researchers to take their place at the forefront of development and bring home their own prizes.

Experts agreed the event – the second in an annual “World Laureates Forum” – was hardly a public relations stunt, but a testament to China’s deep-seated, steadfast desire to learn from the world’s top scientists and join them, and their home countries, as leaders on the frontier of science and produce regular home-grown contenders for top prizes.

“The Nobel Prize is the holy grail for China, and it is still quite elusive for Chinese indigenous scientists to be awarded this prestigious recognition,” said Chengxin Pan, an associate professor of international relations at Australia’s Deakin University. “You could say China has a Nobel Prize complex.”