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Deng Xingwang: to Boost Agriculture in China

On the evening of November 1st, Deng Xingwang, a fellow of American Academy of Sciences and the president of School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences of Peking University, was invited to Shizishan Forum where he talked about how to seek benefit for Chinese agriculture and farmers. The event was hosted by Prof. Yan Jianjun, the Changjiang Scholar, and Dean of College of Plant Sciences & Technology.

Prof. Deng Xingwang shares his life experience

Seek benefit for farmers with sincerity
Despite coming from a poor village in deep mountain, Deng made his way to Peking University and then University of California, Berkeley. After that he worked as a professor in Yale and is now a member of NAS. Amazed by such experience, Yan asked him: "Can you share your secret to success with us? And what is your next goal?" Deng replied: "When I was a child, there weren't enough food, yet rural life was beautiful and alive with energy. But nowadays, fishes in the ponds, rivers are dying due to the increasing use of pesticide and fertilizer.Then I realized that someone must stand up to change such situation. I used to work just for myself and my family, but now I wonder if I can make any contribution to Chinese agriculture and farmers." Deng said that he is a man from countryside and his motto is always "Dedicating myself to the development of Chinese rural areas".

When invited by Peking University, Deng decided to come back to his Alma Mater and help to build a school of agriculture. Deng told the audience: "The most important thing is to make contribution to your homeland. One should always try his/her best to face setbacks." To Deng, a million dollars' rise of the farmers' income is much more significant than a million dollars' prize of Nobel Prize.
He wishes to increase the income of Chinese farmers for they are the most vulnerable and isolated group in China. "One more school of agriculture may not be enough to change the fate of all the farmers in China, but the point is that everyone tries to stand up and solve the problem. It is we who launched such project, but there are other people committed to the project."

Boost Chinese Agriculture with Confidence
Worried that the achievements of School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences of Peking University will only exist in papers and fail to get close to the grass-root, a student asked if it is possible for ordinary farmers to benefit from the academic researches. Deng appreciated her for raising such a good question and said it is also his own concern. He wished to pool the wisdom of those who are responsible for agricultural development in towns and counties together and to teach them the latest techniques. Only by combing theories with practice can scientific researches better boost agricultural development.
In Deng’s mind, modern agriculture should include three aspects: more stable, more abundant and more adaptable. The typical lifestyle in Chinese rural area remained the same for thousands of years.In order to change the current situation, we should focus on scientific technology to promote modernization of agriculture. It is also necessary to learn from the agricultural strategies used in America and gather all the strength of all institutions and all universities to make a better future for farmers. In addition, he hopes that Peking University will do more than establishing a school of agriculture.It must be able to promote research in related fields in order to boost the development of Chinese agriculture. Deng encouraged youths to pay close attention to issues concerning agriculture, countryside and farmers for they ought to make their own contribution to the development of Chinese agriculture.

Pursue Scientific research with persistence

A student named Guo Dongling from College of Plant Sciences & Technology asked Deng about which road to take when there are multiple choices. Deng answered:” Just hold on and never give up. I’m always on my way to pursue something like being enrolled to a university, being able to eat a nice meal and becoming a good scientist. Now my goal is to seek benefit for Chinese farmers.” Each goal is more important and difficultee and what other people see and that is why we must correct our mistakes when others point out and sum up experience.” He added. “Life is like a race, if you keep running when others stopped, you will be the best even if you are the last one to reach the finish line.”
Deng also told the students to care less about success. Because one can never be successful unless he has encountered some setbacks. “Frankly, most people only care about how many papers you published, but you are the only one who knows how many times you failed. Failure is common, but success doesn’t come easily.”Yan expressed his appreciation for the engagement and professional knowledge of the students. He then made a summary with two key words:” The first one is zeal, all ambitious students in China should speak for the vulnerable group. The second word is persistence, there are no shortcuts in the world. You can only achieve your goal by keeping trying.”

【Introduction】Deng Xingwang, professor of School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences of Peking University, a member of NAS and The Recruitment Program of Global Experts. His group has now published more than 300 papers. Some of the papers have been published in top international journals like Nature, Science, Cell, etc.

Tr. By Ao Ling; Instructor: Guo Haiyan