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Joint endeavors

Updated:2022-04-08 10:11:41   China Daily


On March 25, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone. President Xi noted that the two countries have maintained coordination and cooperation on such issues as global development and climate change, and have actively contributed to addressing common challenges facing humanity. Prime Minister Johnson expressed the United Kingdom's readiness to deepen communication and coordination on climate change, biodiversity and other global and regional issues.

This is good news for the ongoing campaign of poverty alleviation and rural sustainability in the Global South, which requires the development of such cooperation to foster research collaboration and the share of good practices across geographic, social, political and cultural boundaries. Two successful projects jointly delivered by the UK and Chinese scholars highlight how such cooperation can help promote rural sustainability.

The first project, a Global Challenges Research Fund pilot project, focuses on the empowerment of smallholder farmers in the poor areas of China through cooperative development. The second one, jointly funded by the UK-China Early Career Researcher Links Workshop Grant, concentrates on methodological innovation for sustainable food and rural studies. The two projects offer insights for a better understanding of both challenges and good practices in rural communities of the developing world. The relevant research findings can be summarized as follows.

First, an online questionnaire survey on "industrial participation in the UK-China agricultural and rural innovation collaboration "shows that sustainable development goals are a common interest among respondents from agribusiness companies, R&D institutes, farmers or non-governmental organizations. This can be verified by a question on the motivation for participation in the UK-China collaboration. Among the eight factors listed as the multiple choices, the sustainable development goals are ranked as second, higher than others such as new market opportunities, technology transfer, investment and trade. This seems to suggest that there is an increasing awareness or recognition among researchers, market players and other stakeholders from the two countries about the importance of the bilateral collaboration for rural development in the Global South to which China can contribute its experience in "targeted poverty alleviation", appropriate technologies and agricultural investment among other resources or opportunities.

Second, given the complexity and diversity of poverty alleviation and rural sustainability in the Global South including the poor areas of China, challenge-oriented, interdisciplinary and stakeholder-engaged research methodology has been successfully applied in the bilateral research collaboration through the UK-China Research Innovation Cooperation Partnership Fund (2013), and the UK-China Agri-tech Flagship Challenge Programme (2017). Such an approach can help young researchers from the two countries to address the challenging issues facing local communities in the Global South, and share good practices across national boundaries. It also provides a sound foundation for international development agencies and trilateral research collaboration as well as offering an understanding of local knowledge, and promotes good practices for empowering smallholder farmers against rural poverty and climate change.

Third, there are many good cases to be shared and promoted. Under the bilateral collaboration framework of the Newton Fund programs for instance, the UK-China-Philippines-Thailand-Vietnam Rice Research program has sponsored 13 projects for research collaboration to tackle the challenges facing rice farmers in the relevant countries. Another good example is the initiative of governments of the UK, China, Malawi and Uganda to facilitate agricultural technology transfer, value-chain enhancement, knowledge sharing and communication between China and Africa.

Finally, many research and innovation platforms have been built through bilateral efforts that serve multilateral cooperation in sustainable agriculture and rural development in the Global South. A good example is the UK-China Virtual Joint Centre for Improved Nitrogen Agronomy which provides a platform for scholars from China, Brazil, India and other collaborators across the world to "develop economically and environmentally sustainable farm systems through research at the farm level". In the same vein, the UK-China Early Career Researcher Consortium of Future Rural Studies has been established with the mission to develop interdisciplinary and stakeholder-engaged research collaboration focusing on rural transition and sustainability in the Global South.

To conclude, the achievements of UK-China research and innovation cooperation in the 2010s have built a sound base to develop the cooperation in the common interest areas of sustainable food, poverty alleviation and rural transformation in the Global South. Promoting third-party and multiparty collaboration should be made a priority of the UK-China bilateral relationship in the 2020s because empowering smallholder farmers for sustainable livelihoods in the developing world is vital to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and the COP 15 and the COP 26 promises.

Many policy implications can be drawn from the results of existing UK-China collaboration initiatives. First, the need for a new funding framework jointly supported by the UK and Chinese governments, just like the Newton Fund in the past, to facilitate research collaboration along the lines of challenge-oriented, interdisciplinary and stakeholder-engaged research in the Global South. Second, dialogues or roundtable meetings should be arranged for multiple stakeholders (researchers, industrial leaders, NGOs and government officials) from the UK, China and other developing countries to discuss the challenges they face and the opportunities for collaboration. Finally, the UK and China can promote cooperation with other countries under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in academic research on the impacts of industrial development on sustainable agriculture, rural innovation and poverty alleviation.

Keywords:   China Uk Cooperation