American-trained scientists like Han Jie are playing an important role in Beijing's efforts to boost China's accomplishments in both science and technology. Han, a 48-year-old nanotech expert who has worked at NASA and at IBM (IBM ) in the U.S., returned to his native China last year and is now the director of the new National Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology in Shanghai. A key part of China's effort to build a nanotech base that can be on the cutting edge of an emerging industry, the center is focusing on practical applications rather than pure research in nanoelectronics and nanobiotechnology. "The R&D that I'm doing is radically different from what I did in the U.S. because we have different market needs," Han explains. "Most people simply follow the direction of what the U.S. is doing. That cannot put China in the lead position. We have to do something unique for China's needs. I don't think that China should follow the American way.""In my center," Han adds, "we are more focused on energy saving because energy is a big problem in China." His center is working on a collaboration with a state-run oil field in northeastern Shandong province to make smoke-free diesel from heavy oil, a substance that otherwise is hard to turn into useful fuel.