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China has leading theoretical astrophysicists, but it lags in the field of observational astronomy, Mao said. The telescope will help China overcome that.

China is ambitious in terms of its science goals. Really it wants to catch up as fast as we can,” he said.

He said China would contribute at least 10 percent of the construction cost, and more if its budget allows. Like India, 70 percent of its contribution will be in-kind.

Mao said the project will also be valuable for the image China broadcasts to the world.

“There are many things that are manufactured in China, but we want to move up in terms of technology,” he said. “We also want to make contributions to world peace. TMT offers a great opportunity to do this.”

All astronomers, wherever they are from, look at the same sky, he said.