How China Becomes Smarter: Through Education and Genetic Engineering

First, China decided to become a manufacturing giant, then an economic and military superpower. So you shouldn't be surprised that their next plan is to improve the actual Chinese people themselves.

They're doing this two ways: the first is not controversial. China is massively investing in education.

Keith Bradsher of The New York Times wrote:

China is making a $250 billion-a-year investment in what economists call human capital. Just as the United States helped build a white-collar middle class in the late 1940s and early 1950s by using the G.I. Bill to help educate millions of World War II veterans, the Chinese government is using large subsidies to educate tens of millions of young people as they move from farms to cities.


Source: UNESCO (degrees, enrollment); China finance ministry via CEIC Data (Spending)
Chart: The New York Times

And it seems to be working (though as some people pointed out, quantity isn't the same as quality - and that, similar to United States and Europe, China is already facing a glut of educated college graduates who can't find jobs). Again, from Bradsher's article:

Sheer numbers make the educational push by China, a nation of more than 1.3 billion people, potentially breathtaking. In the last decade, China doubled the number of colleges and universities, to 2,409.

As recently as 1996, only one in six Chinese 17-year-olds graduated from high school. That was the same proportion as in the United States in 1919. Now, three in five young Chinese graduate from high school, matching the United States in the mid-1950s.

China is on track to match within seven years the United States’ current high school graduation rate for 18-year-olds of 75 percent — although a higher proportion of Americans than Chinese later go back and finish high school.

By quadrupling its output of college graduates in the past decade, China now produces eight million graduates a year from universities and community colleges. [...] By the end of the decade, China expects to have nearly 195 million community college and university graduates — compared with no more than 120 million in the United States then.

The second method is more controversial. According to this article by Aleks Eror published in VICE, China is working on making its people more intelligent by genetic-engineering:

At BGI Shenzhen, scientists have collected DNA samples from 2,000 of the world’s smartest people and are sequencing their entire genomes in an attempt to identify the alleles which determine human intelligence. Apparently they’re not far from finding them, and when they do, embryo screening will allow parents to pick their brightest zygote and potentially bump up every generation's intelligence by five to 15 IQ points.

Eror interviewed evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller who said that smart people were being recruited, through scientific conference and word of mouth, to contribute their genetic material to be sequenced so the genes for intelligence can be identified (and later on, used to determine the intelligence potential of embryos).

What does that mean in human language?
Any given couple could potentially have several eggs fertilized in the lab with the dad’s sperm and the mom’s eggs. Then you can test multiple embryos and analyze which one’s going to be the smartest. That kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids. It’s not genetic engineering or adding new genes, it’s the genes that couples already have.

And over the course of several generations you’re able to exponentially multiply the population’s intelligence.
Right. Even if it only boosts the average kid by five IQ points, that’s a huge difference in terms of economic productivity, the competitiveness of the country, how many patents they get, how their businesses are run, and how innovative their economy is.

(Top image: Shutterstock)


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"And it seems to be working (though as some people pointed out, quantity isn't the same as quality - and that, similar to United States and Europe, China is already facing a glut of educated college graduates who can't find jobs"

When they cannot find a job, these smart people are going to go where the jobs are. The will leave China and go to Europe and the US.
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Ian Malcolm wonders what moral hazard will be found by this embryo selection. (Yes, they may produce more intelligent children, but perhaps they'll be less physically gifted, more more susceptible to emotional instability, or too/insufficiently filled with the urge to procreate, or easily addicted, or....
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