When the country China comes to mind, what things do you generally think of?
Most of you would say The Great Wall, feng shui, their food, pandas, cheap products, communism, and martial arts, among others. All of these are valid observations, as China is indeed famous for such. But I’d like to add something to that list, a thing that is so rare that China has to be remembered for it: most of the political leaders in China are scientists and engineers.
To prove that fact, let us play a quick game. Name a scientist or an engineer from your country’s top government officials. Don’t cheat with Google, just think of someone that you already know. Now I doubt that you have thought one especially if you’re in the U.S.
Nowhere in the world can you see the same admiration and respect from the public to their scientists and engineers other than in China. This is a little known fact. They admire such professionals so much to the point that they qualify these people to be worthy and capable in handling political affairs. The Chinese people believe that scientists and engineers, who eventually become technocrats, have a highly disciplined mind fit for public office.
Directly before the present administration, 8 out of China’s top 9 government officials are scientists and engineers. This leadership has brought laser focus on innovation, bringing much of China’s labor centralized in science, technology, and engineering.
This was followed by the current political lineup, which relaxed a little from technocracy. The top Chinese leaders are now diverse with former economists, research fellows and a journalist in the league.
Still, scientists and engineers occupy several of China’s highest political offices. Two of these offices are held by Xi Jinping and Yu Zhengsheng.
Xi Jinping, the top leader in the Communist Party of China and the President of the People’s Republic of China, studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, which is the same university where previous Chinese President Hu Jintao went for a degree in hydroelectric engineering. Xi obtained a degree in Marxist degree as well as a Ph.D in law at the Tsinghua Humanities Institute, becoming China’s first national leader to hold such degree.
Yu Zhengsheng, the chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is also an engineer. He graduated from the specialty of ballistic missile automatic control of the Missile Engineering Department of the Harbin Military Engineering Institute. Yu spent almost twenty years in the electronics industry before joining the Ministry of Electronics Industry in the 1980s.
Not only do scientists and engineers dominate the top political offices in China, they can also be found at all levels of the Chinese government. It has long been observed by the Chinese people to elect, or perhaps select due to their election system, politicians with a science or engineering background.
A study by Li Cheng and Lynn White entitled “Elite Transformation and Modern Change in Mainland China and Taiwan: Empirical Data and the Theory of Technocracy” describes the domination of scientists and engineers in the Chinese political elite.
At the time the authors conducted the study, mayors and Party secretaries of cities of over a million, governors and provincial Party secretaries of China’s provinces, autonomous regions, and province-level municipalities; and Central Committee members were found to be 80% technocrats. This means that 8 out of 10 among them have four-year degrees or more in science or engineering.
This technocracy that exists in China is ingrained in their political culture. Mengzi, or Mencius, who was famous for being a loyal follower of Confucius, once said, “Let those who labor with their heads rule those who labor with their hands.” This was uttered sometime in the 4th or 3rd century BCE, where technology, which was bronze casting, scapulamancy and plastromancy at the time, was dominated by the shamanic priests of the Shang dynasty.