Difference in life between the two countries | Sunday Observer
Sri Lankan scientist working in China:

Difference in life between the two countries

29 November, 2020

Biman Najika Liyanage is a researcher, inventor and entrepreneur with several advanced technology development ventures established in Beijing, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. With over 20 patents, he won many awards including the Red Dot Design Award and the Durex Design Challenge. He was also nominated for the Forbes Under 30 Asia Class of 2017 and the Forbes China Class of 2017 in the field of Healthcare and Sciences.

First prize

He had his education at Nalanda College in Colombo before he went to Beihang University in China, and thereafter got a scholarship winning the first prize for the Feng Ru Cup, the biggest university innovation competition in China. He was the first foreign winner among thousands of Chinese students: he invented a pair of gloves for deaf and blind children to help understand the world in a better way. This was the beginning when he started to be interested in solving a small percentage of the problems that a lot of people are not interested in solving. Winning the Feng Ru Cup helped him to join Microsoft Research in China, to work on AI and Machine learning at a young age. He now lives and works in China most of the time. “It was a blessing for me to be part of the digital transformation journey from 2009 in Beijing,” he said. At the 2017 Chinese New Year gala he created smart gloves connecting 165 dancers collaborating with Intel using AI Technology.

As an inventor he observed how China took a new turn to be innovation- motivated, and how small or medium size businesses rise up to unicorns and help build the economy through digital services. “People used to go out shopping with a wallet. But now most Chinese use the smart phone for payment. Very seldom do people use the wallet for payment. It happened in just three years, and was a fascinating experience and something we can adopt in Sri Lanka”

He said the major difference between life in Sri Lanka and China lies in the work-life balance. “Work culture in China is extremely demanding. It is not easy to find time to enjoy the little things in life. Before Covid-19, we spent more time on a flight or a taxi than on a cozy couch at home. In Sri Lanka I would say things are relatively slow.

We have more holidays than most countries and it helps to spend more time with family. In China, your friends become your physical family and your family becomes the virtual family due to the distance.”


As for education, he doesn’t see much difference, as overall the literacy rate with the free education system is realised in both countries. “We tend to work hard in high school, which is similar to Chinese students as they have to pass the national university entrance examination.

I remember studying for over 16 hours a day when I was in high school. I don’t see a difference in effort but there is a difference in results when it comes to innovation.

You need to have the infrastructure to innovate: for example, machine shops, hardware shops, 3D printing facilities, good logistics and access to talent and mentorship.

We lack the infrastructure in Sri Lanka which I am trying to help the country build,” he said.

“But no matter which country, it is important for education that the new generation learn the relevant skills.

We should not ask them what they want to be when they grow up. We should ask what problems they wish to solve when they grow up.

We also need to spend more time practising mindfulness. A deeper understanding and peace within will help us connect better with nature and the environment.”