Earlier this year I told that that this is the year of the tiger … and China is going to roar as it is on track to overtake Japan as the 2nd largest global producer of GDP. But this is just the beginning. China is expected to become the global leader in scientific research in a mere 10 years (Financial Times [FT]) and the global leader in GDP within 25 years (The Economics Journal).
According to the FT article, Thomson Reuters, which indexes scientific papers from over 10.5K journals, analyzed the performance of the BRIC over the past 30 years and found that China outperformed every other nation with a 64-fold increase in peer-reviewed scientific papers, with a particular strength in chemistry and materials science. And although quality varies, China has also become more collaborative, with almost 10% of papers originating in China having at least one US-based co-author.
And the research pace isn’t expected to slow down. When you combine the government’s enormous investment in research (with funding increases consistently far above the inflation rate), an organized flow of knowledge from basic science to commercial applications, and the efficient, but flexible, way in which China taps the expertise of its extensive scientific diaspora in North America and Europe, drawing mid-career scientists back home with deals that allow them to spend part of the year working in the West, the productivity should only increase. And this, in turn, is going to continue to drive their economy upward and onward.
Now if only we’d take a lesson from China and investment the same amount of money into research and infrastructure. Maybe we could hold on just a little bit longer …