China was the birth place of the compass, the rudder, and gun powder. Today though one would think of China more as the work shop of the world than a Silicon Valley. Nonetheless, a new report by the Royal Society (the UK’s national academy of Science) highlights China as a scientific rival to traditional “scientific superpowers” such as the US, Western Europe and Japan.
You can download the entire report from the following link: http://royalsociety.org/uploadedFiles/Royal_Society_Content/Influencing_Policy/Reports/2011-03-28-Knowledge-networks-nations.pdf
In recent years China has overtaken both Japan and Europe in terms of its output of academic scientific publications. Over the years 1999-2003 China was the 6th largest contributor at 4% (25,464 papers in total, vs. 292,513 in the US). By 2004 to 2008 China had jumped to 2nd place reaching a commanding 10% of global output (184,080 paper in total, vs. 316,317 in the US). To reach that point, China had to grow output 18% annually over 1996-2008 (see graphs below – China is the bright red segment in both charts).
The report calls China’s rise up the rankings as “especially striking”, and attributes it to a 20% annual increase in R&D spend since 1999, reaching $100bn a year today (or 1.44% of 2007 GDP). China’s goal is to spend 2.5% of GDP on R&D by 2020. In 2006 China witnessed a staggering 1.5million science engineering graduates from its universities.
Some would say that size doesn’t count, but it’s the quality of the publications. That’s a fair point. Citations are often used as a means of evaluation the quality of a piece of research. Why? Peer recognition indicates the value the scientific community places on a piece of work. Chinese research accounts for 4% of global citations over 2004-2008, putting it in 7th place. Whilst the rate clearly lags the volume, China did not even register in the top 10 in 1999-2003, so the trend is still clear. In addition, The Royal Society does accept this is a rather crude and lagging indicator.
The report says that its findings are not simply about prestige, but are a barometer of a country’s ability to compete on the world stage.
We’ve spoken a few times about long-term changes in the make-up of the Chinese economy. As the country looks to move from being a cheap source of labour / the workshop of the world, increased R&D and scientific accomplishment are vital future drivers of not only growth, but a source of continued improvement in standards of living. This data shows that the Chinese are making all the right moves and setting themselves up to take centre stage.