The elephant and the dragon in contemporary life sciences

A call for decolonising global governance

Joy Y. Zhang
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Saheli Datta Burton
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This book provides a powerful diagnosis of why the global governance of science struggles in the face of emerging powers. In the field of the life sciences, China and India are both seen as emerging ‘dragons’ and as ‘elephants’. Both countries have formidable resources and are boldly determined to have their presence felt. Yet even when transnational regulatory pledges are made, there often remains an ‘elephant in the room’. Would these scientific ‘dragons’ really abide by the agreed rules? The book provides an essential insight into the logic of science governance in the two countries through unpacking critical events in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. This includes controversies on gene research, stem cell experimental therapies, GM crops, vaccines, the CRISPR technologies and the COVID pandemic. It argues that the ‘subversiveness’ assumed in China’s and India’s rise reflects many of the challenges that are shared by scientific communities worldwide. Previously marginalised actors, both from the Global South and Global North, contest conventional thinking of how science and scientists should be governed. As science outgrows traditional colonies of expertise and authority, good governance necessarily needs to be ‘de-colonised’ to acquire the capacity to think from and with others. By highlighting epistemic injustice within contemporary science, the book extends theories of decolonisation. This book is indispensable for scientists, policy makers and science communicators who are working with or in China and India, and for anyone interested in science-society relations in a global age.

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