China Tops List Of Nations In Scientific Research Growth

The FT has determined that the growth of China’s scientific research has been greater than that of any other nation in the world over the last three decades. And, China could pass the US as the largest provider of “research knowledge” by the end of this decade. The paper reports that “China far outperformed every other nation, with a 64-fold increase in peer-reviewed scientific papers since 1981, with particular strength in chemistry and materials science.”

The news is another frightening example of how China’s financial and intellectual strength is beginning to eclipse the West and Japan. China’s $5 trillion GDP is expected to be larger than Japan’s this year and that would put it in the No. 2 spot behind the US’s $14 trillion. China’s economic growth is at a 10% rate while in the US the figure is closer to 3%.

The research data from the FT is another example of how government supported industry, financial, and research initiatives give China core advantages over other developed nations. The US government does not have a set of systematic programs to underwrite core research although may of the advances in American research come from federal agencies like NASA and NIH. But, that is not the same as wholesale funding of  national R&D activities.

US corporations continue to put hundreds of billions of dollars into research each year, but projects are generally aimed that proving profits to the companies that do the research. There is little sharing of original work because it would often give competitors certain advantages. IBM (IBM) is unlikely to share he work behind important patents with HP (HPQ).

The US government has decided to keep taxpayer dollars from providing vast support of research that would probably drive advances in sectors from healthcare to technology. It is part of a free market economy, but its advantages in a competitive world are have become less certain.

Douglas A. McIntyre