Maury Tigner email@example.com
Thanks for your invitation to share some of my experiences on mainland China as a visiting participant in IHEP, Beijing over the past year.
The theme that seems most appropriate in knitting these experiences together is "opportunity". As widely advertised, the current P.R.China official policy is one of "opening up" and economic expansion based on market principles. The resulting changes are palpable with striking successes and stresses everywhere in the country. The practical effect is a broad diversity of opportunity for foreigner and native alike; professional opportunities, cultural opportunities and human opportunities.
A sub-theme of "opening up" is a push to promote connections between the mainland Chinese scientific and technological communities with those corresponding in the international community. This drive extends across the range of natural sciences, not the least of which is accelerator science and technology.
In past issues you have acquainted your readers with the breadth of accelerator related activities on the mainland through reports of our Chinese colleagues there. Briefly, there are several Van de Graaff and cyclotron labs, both electron and proton linacs, synchrotron light sources, a pioneering free electron laser, heavy ion machines and an electron-positron collider used by physicists from across China and the US. Currently there are proposals and interest in many possible future projects from heavy ion storage rings to a third generation light source to an advanced FEL and a tau-charm Factory which has attracted substantial international interest and support.
Owing to the fact that the Chinese Academy of Sciences of P.R.China (CAS) sponsors IHEP (Institute of High Energy Physics) in Beijing as well as the majority of other research oriented accelerator labs around the country, I was able to visit several of the activities mentioned above and enjoy lively discussions with many enthusiastic scientists and students. In these visits I found a genuine eagerness for connection with the international community, an eagerness both to learn from and to contribute to that community with their own original ideas.
An outstanding example of the opportunities and attitudes in the campaign of measurements relevant to the photo- electron instability (PEI) being carried out jointly at BEPC (Beijing Electron-Positron Collider) by accelerator scientists from KEK and IHEP. Many other opportunities for such work will likely arise from the planned R/D program for the BTCF (Beijing Tau-Charm Factory) to be built, it is hoped, at IHEP, taking advantage of the extensive, existing infrastructure for BEPC. I myself have participated in developing the BTCF concept, learning much through exchanges with colleagues there regarding the unique challenges of the tau-charm Factory. Of course the experience of the international community with its strong tradition of good communications makes it possible for visiting participants from that community to contribute a great deal to the development of accelerator science and relationships there. From my visits to other labs on the mainland I believe that the above observations will apply widely.
In the area of cultural opportunity, the "opening up" and market style economic development has had a profound impact as well. Good quality tourism is quite well developed and improving steadily. Travel to almost any part of China is relatively easy to arrange and the accommodations are usually reasonable in quality and cost. The great pride and interest in their history and pre-history, literature and art results in a large number of national, provincial, county and municipal museums and parks with very good collections of cultural objects. Often there is a curator available who is happy to show off his treasures; maybe even in English! Of course there are fascinating temples of many kinds everywhere, many with important historical stories to tell. Natural wonders abound with mountains, desert and jungles quite easily accessible.
Perhaps the most important opportunities afforded by the current circumstances are what one might call human opportunities. The home of one quarter of humanity is now open to acquaintance in a way not possible in recent times. Through sustained participation in mainland scientific endeavors as mediated by the almost culture and politics free language of science, strong personal connections can be made with members of China's intellectual community, traditionally a most influential group. The reciprocal flow of understandings thereby made possible are bound to have a positive effect as mainland China assumes the larger world role made possible by its rapid economic expansion.
What of the difficulties? Naturally, taste for adventure is always a valuable asset. P.R. China is after all a developing country and one might expect living conditions to require some compromise for westerners. While it is true that daily life is not as convenient as one might find it in Geneva, New York or Tokyo, my wife and I found it quite easy to accommodate even though we are not speakers of Chinese. A major factor in this ease of accommodation is the universal existence of a "foreign affairs" office at each CAS institute. Their staffs are expert in dealing with visitor/participant concerns of all kinds be they dealings with the government bureaucracy or grocery shopping. There are also large foreign communities in the eastern Chinese cities so one can have that contact too if one feels the need of home culture contacts. For children there are numerous proprietary "international schools" that have sprung up in recent times to serve the international communities residing in the larger cities.
We found the opportunities for professional and personal development and service most exciting and gratifying and can recommend the experience. We should be pleased to correspond with anyone who has questions or observations to share.