Huang, Junling, Dongbo Shi, Lan Xue, and Venkatesh Narayanamurti. "A Case Study of a World-Class Research Project Accomplished in China: Discovery of the Quantum Anomalous Hall Effect." National Science Review (October 2016).
China has achieved very impressive economic growth in the past three decades, but this success is unlikely to continue unless future economic growth is based on technological innovation, derived from strong and sustainable basic research. The Chinese leadership has clearly recognized the need for the development of world-class research universities and the need for a thorough reform of its science and technology (S&T) administrative and funding systems . As part of a project to study the evolution of the leading Chinese universities, we here focused our attention on a specific case of a recent scientific discovery—the Quantum Anomalous Hall Effect (QAHE)—by a multi-institutions research effort led by Qikun Xue at Tsinghua University, who won the Future Science Prize for physical science (http://gbtimes.com/china/chinese-scientists-win-inaugural-future-science-prize) following his ground-breaking discoveries in QAHE. The discovery of the QAHE represents a significant scientific breakthrough in the field of condensed matter and materials physics—one of the largest sub-fields of physics that explores the macroscopic and microscopic properties of matter. From this perspective, we analyse the QAHE discovery process, with the focus on the emerging research culture in post-Cultural-Revolution China, explore how an effective research leader can mobilize all relevant resources toward one common goal, and discuss how reform in China's S&T administration and funding may facilitate similar scientific breakthrough and innovation.