China follows ethical line while advancing technology

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/25 22:58:40

In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) novel Journey to the West, protagonist the Monkey King pulls out hairs, blows on them and so duplicates himself thousands of times. The myth became reality with news that Chinese scientists have cloned two healthy monkeys from tissue cells.

The breakthrough will promote research into brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's as well as accelerating the process to develop and test the efficacy of drugs for these conditions, the scientists said.

While admitting the achievement is impressive, some foreign media are casting a strange eye upon it. National Geographic magazine called it a "controversial milestone." CNN noted "with this birth, these scientists have broken a barrier and that means the technique could, in theory, be applied to humans." "Threat or help?" asked BBC Chinese in a headline.

The Chinese researchers said that they have no intention of trying the technique on humans, but media are still covering the story as if human cloning were right around the corner.

Since the 1996 birth of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal, cloning controversies, especially human cloning, have never stopped.

Critics ask: Do human clones have parents and families? What should be their relationship with those who provided them genes? Do they have basic human rights? Are they merely tools for research or transplants?

Disputes have been fierce, yet no leading power has abandoned its research. In the 21 years since 1996, scientists have cloned nearly two dozen mammals including cows, mice, cats and dogs, but until now, never a primate.

Besides showing China's innovation capacity, the birth of cloned monkeys proved that science fiction is not that far from science fact and ethical controversies cannot stop technical progress. But while one's imagination can wander unconstrained into fiction, in real life actions must be ethical. Foreign media should relax. When it comes to cloning technology, China's stance has been firm and consistent: Reproductive human cloning is not allowed.

Scientific advances often come with ethical debates. In the decades to come, the human race is bound to be puzzled by similar ethical problems. Debates are welcomed as long as they help us face and use science more rationally, not hamper it. For the moment, it is hoped that cloning development will not pause, but continue to promote human well-being.

China has invested heavily in science and technology. In 2016, the National Natural Science Foundation of China set a target, requiring its investment in basic research equal that of big-spending countries by 2020. The first monkey clones are a sign that such investment is paying off.

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