NESTA tries to answer that question in a report on risks and opportunities for China-UK research and innovation collaboration. The report is thought-provoking as can already be seen from its title: ‘China’s Absorptive State’.
Some indicators that China is on route to becoming a world leader in science:
- China has the world’s fastest supercomputer. Yes, chips are made by Intel, but Chinese experts made them work together.
- Chinese scientists developed the world lightest material ever.
- In 14 years China went from having 1% of world’s gene sequencing capability to almost having 50%.
- National spending on R&D keeps on rising (18% from last year).
- Patent filings are growing even at higher rates.
- By 2020 China will produce more graduates than US and EU combined.
- In that year China will also publish more papers than the US.
However it is also possible to have a different view:
- A recent study estimates that only 10% of Chinese engineering graduates meet international standard of employability.
- China has been called a “fast follower”, swallowing others’ advances, quickly catching up but never leading.
- China is driven by “techno-nationalism”, where China desires to secure a “absolute (technological) advantage”.