The recent headlines of bad air in Beijing underscores what anyone who has spent time there in the last 10 years knows, that China's continued reliance on coal and its poor air quality protection standards simply cannot continue. Given that is so obvious and China's lack of any domestic energy source other than coal, the Chinese government is pursuing alternative energy sources. It is no secret they are leaders in solar technology and were it not for accidents in Japan, China would be forging ahead with construction of many planned nuclear fission power plants. The Chinese leaders are not foolish, they know that the long-term well-being of their country is tied to finding a reliable, safe energy source other than coal. For that reason, they are pursuing research in fusion energy and they take it very seriously. The picture is from the Chinese media frenzy following the first operation of EAST, the first totally superconducting tokamak (fusion energy reserch) device in the world. The cameras "in the face" and the reporters straining to record every word are not aimed at a rock star or some indicted politician, but at the laboratory director as he speaks about his laboratory's success. The story was covered by every news outlet in China, even swamping "puff pieces" about the upcoming National Holiday. Presently, fusion energy researchers from the U.S.A., where no major new facility has been built since the early 80s, must travel to China or Korea to perform experiments on superconducting tokamaks. The construction of the International Thermonuclear Experiment Reactor is ongoing in the south of France. The U.S.A. is a junior partner in this research. The country that led the development of superconductors, TV, semiconductors, nuclear energy, computers and software has ceded preeminence in research into the world's only unlimited energy source to other countries. Of course, it is still "just research" that will not payoff for decades and there is no guarantee that it will become a practical energy source, but the reward is so great if it is successful, that it is simply wrong that the greatest technological innovator in history is not pursuing this with urgency. Meanwhile China is pursuing fundamental research in energy research over a broad spectrum of technologies. The importance the Chinese attach to science as well as the enormous resource of people who are becoming ever more scientifically literate and capable of pursuing difficult scientific research goals will eventually raise the knowledge of mankind enormously.
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