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Thursday, January 3, 2019

As China Seeks Scientific Greatness, Some Say Ethics Are an Afterthought

Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen
The New York Times
Originally published November 30, 2018

First it was a proposal to transplant a head to a new body. Then it was the world’s first cloned primates. Now it is genetically edited babies.

Those recent scientific announcements, generating reactions that went from unease to shock, had one thing in common: All involved scientists from China.

China has set its sights on becoming a leader in science, pouring millions of dollars into research projects and luring back top Western-educated Chinese talent. The country’s scientists are accustomed to attention-grabbing headlines by their colleagues as they race to dominate their fields.

But when He Jiankui announced on Monday that he had created the world’s first genetically edited babies, Chinese scientists — like those elsewhere — denounced it as a step too far. Now many are asking whether their country’s intense focus on scientific achievement has come at the expense of ethical standards.

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