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'Pushing Boundaries'

China is spending a vast amount of money — some $190 billion in 2013 — to be the world leader in biomedical research, but the New York Times reports that some worry that ethical considerations are falling to wayside as pressure to produce ground-breaking research mounts.

Recently, researchers around the world were stunned when a team from Sun Yat-sen University reported its attempt to modify the beta-thalassemia gene in human embryos using the CRISPR-Cas9. In the West, the Times says, such work is past an ethical 'red line.'

China has, the Times notes, limits on embryonic research, influenced by Confucian ideas that may differ from Western ones. Still, Zhai Xiaomei, a member of the National Medical Ethical Committee and professor at Peking Union Medical College says Chinese researchers follow globally accepted ethical and scientific norms.

She adds that the committee found the genome editing work to be ethically acceptable as it "was not for reproductive purposes."

"I don't think China wants to take a moratorium," Huso Yi, director of research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Center for Bioethics, tells the Times. "People are saying they can't stop the train of mainland Chinese genetics because it's going too fast."

And there may be a financial incentive to push boundaries, the Times adds. It says Chinese scientists are generally not paid well, though may receive a bonus of up to $32,000 for publishing an article in an international scientific journal.