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China Second to US in research, set to pass in 2020

2010 January 25
by Ian Welsh

Not, actually, a surprise, to anyone who isn’t an idiot:

China has experienced the strongest growth in scientific research over the past three decades of any country, according to figures compiled for the Financial Times, and the pace shows no sign of slowing.

Jonathan Adams, research evaluation director at Thomson Reuters, said China’s “awe-inspiring” growth had put it in second place to the US – and if it continues on its trajectory it will be the largest producer of scientific knowledge by 2020.

Why is this?

According to James Wilsdon, science policy director at the Royal Society in London, three main factors are driving Chinese research. First is the government’s enormous investment, with funding increases far above the rate of inflation, at all levels of the system from schools to postgraduate research.

Second is the organised flow of knowledge from basic science to commercial applications. Third is the efficient and flexible way in which China is tapping the expertise of its extensive scientific diaspora in north America and Europe, tempting back mid-career scientists with deals that allow them to spend part of the year working in the west and part in China.

Oh.  Because you get what you pay for and what you plan for.  The US has been starving its scientists and forcing them to rely on private funding, and China has been investing in them, bigtime.

Because China understands leading in science helps you lead in technology and that helps your country be strong and prosperous.

Oh, and that real strength means not prioritizing military research.

The US understood all those things, once upon a time.

A while back I stumbled upon an ex-reader commenting that he quit reading FDL when I was talking about how China was going to eat the US’s lunch in the next couple generations.

He epitomized why the US is going down, because no one can tell Americans they aren’t the center of the universe and the best at everything.  And since Americans think they are the best, it never occurs to them that they need to actually, really, fix anything.

7 Responses
  1. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 25, 2010

    Excellence has not been on the agenda for decades, it died in Vietnam

    when Nixon prolonged the war; an unremarked casualty of political propaganda

    used to herd public support for the adventure.

    Excellence happens to be the path as well as the goal; one is either on the path or is not.

  2. January 25, 2010

    The other problem is the incentive structure in North America. Even if you have a University degree in math or science, why wouldn’t you just go work for Wall Street analyzing stocks so that you can be upper class instead of middle class? Or go to Law School and make 5x what you would have made as a scientist?

    It’s not just labor that is no longer valued in the private sector, research isn’t either. Corporations (which know no patriotism, even though they are full constitutional U.S. citizens), are probably ecstatic at this news. Now they can pay Chinese researchers and engineers $10,000 per year to keep their businesses going.

  3. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 25, 2010

    Don’t worry, I fully expect Yuan/Dollar parity, probably within 20 years. And the Chinese government doesn’t let foreign corporations spend money on things in China it doesn’t want them too, anyway.

  4. tjfxh permalink
    January 25, 2010

    The typical US explanation: “The Chinese are stealing our technology.”

  5. jo6pac permalink
    January 25, 2010

    tjfxh
    The typical US explanation: “The Chinese are stealing our technology.”

    Or they do it the old fashion way.

    http://allisonkilkenny.wordpress.com/2008/04/30/clinton-blasts-bush-for-not-stopping-a-project-her-husband-approved/

    I remember reading this story when it came out. Hello any one home

  6. January 25, 2010

    I wonder if this is actually true, or if it’s based on cooked numbers and junk research. Some percentage of Chinese research is very poor, and researchers have been caught out doing things that would not be tolerated in the developed world. Still…

  7. January 27, 2010

    Here is a decisive budget cut – imagine the last paragraph applied to a defense project….

    ‘When the White House releases his budget proposal Monday, there will be no money for the Constellation program that was supposed to return humans to the moon by 2020. The troubled and expensive Ares I rocket that was to replace the space shuttle to ferry humans to space will be gone, along with money for its bigger brother, the Ares V cargo rocket that was to launch the fuel and supplies needed to take humans back to the moon.
    There will be no lunar landers, no moon bases, no Constellation program at all.
    There will also be funding for private companies to develop capsules and rockets that can be used as space taxis to take astronauts on fixed-price contracts to and from the International Space Station — a major change in the way the agency has done business for the past 50 years.
    “We certainly don’t need to go back to the moon,” said one administration official.
    The end of the shuttle program this year is already going to slash 7,000 jobs at Kennedy Space Center.
    One administration official said the budget will send a message that it’s time members of Congress recognize that NASA can’t design space programs to create jobs in their districts. “That’s the view of the president,” the official said.’
    http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/space/os-no-moon-for-nasa-20100126,0,266846,print.story

    Whatever the merits of NASA and specific programs, the space age ended with Apollo 17, and the end of the shuttle and “privatization” of any lift-to-ISS capability marks the upcoming end of US ability to get anything beyond satellites and warheads out of VeryLEO. The breakdown is pervasive, it will simply hit the actual “security” budget last.

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