Data from the 2016 US National Science Foundation report [PDF] on global Science & Engineering Indicators shows the stunning ascendancy of China’s research and development funding and output.
The report paints a sobering picture for the future of US leadership in science, showing that China is graduating more scientists, rapidly increasing the quality of its research and even more rapidly increasing its research and development funding.
The report finds that the developing world in general has significantly increased its annual number of graduates with science and engineering degrees, with China leading the pack. Research and development funding in Asia has exploded, particularly in China and South Korea.
Asia is now by far the world’s top spender on research and development, spending 42% of all global research and development funding in 2013, a staggering $700 billion dollars a year and growing rapidly.
North America has fallen to second place in research and development funding, spending 29% of the total.
In contrast to China, funding growth in the United States and the EU has slowed to a trickle. The US research and development funding growth has collapsed from average of 5%+ annually from 1998-2003 to less than 2.5% between 2008-2013, while China’s annual growth in funding comes in at a blistering 18% between 2008-2013.
This rapid funding increase enabled China to reach parity with US in science and engineering article output in 2013.
China is now also matching the US in the size of its value added high technology industry, with both countries coming in at around $500 billion.
China has also made significant gains in the quality of its research output, which has often been maligned for being derivative, copied and uninnovative.
China’s output of high quality research matched that of Japan in 2012 and its research quality (measured by the ratio of top 1% most cited papers) roughly doubled between 2001 and 2012, from 0.4% to 0.8%. The research quality scores in US and Japan are 1.9% and 0.8%, respectively.
This year, China dominated the artificial intelligence ImageNet competition, with more than half of the participating teams coming from China. A Beijing-based team won first place with a world record 2.25% error rate, human performance is estimate at around 5%. China’s government also released plans this year to match the US in AI by 2020.
If current trends continue unabated, China will almost certainly surpass the US in high quality research output by the end of the next decade.