China increasingly challenges American dominance of science

China increasingly challenges American dominance of science, by Ben Guarino.

After decades of American dominance, Chinese science is ascendant, and it is luring scientists like Pastor-Pareja away from the United States. Even more China-born scientists are returning from abroad to a land of new scientific opportunity.

The United States spends half a trillion dollars a year on scientific research — more than any other nation on Earth — but China has pulled into second place, with the European Union third and Japan a distant fourth.

China is on track to surpass the United States by the end of this year, according to the National Science Board. In 2016, annual scientific publications from China outnumbered those from the United States for the first time.

“There seems to be a sea change in how people are talking about Chinese science,” said Alanna Krolikowski, a Chinese science expert at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Foreign observers, many of whom were once condescending, now “are rather in awe at what the Chinese policies have accomplished.”

The scientific advances are a small piece of China’s larger ambitions. President Xi Jinping aims to supplant the United States as the world’s economic superpower within three decades. In October, Xi vowed to produce “a world-class army by 2050.” …

During the early 2000s, party leaders declared an ambitious 15-year goal of devoting 2.5 percent of China’s total gross domestic product to scientific research and development by 2020. They enacted rules that required Western companies, hungry for access to China’s market, to share technology with their Chinese counterparts. According to U.S. agencies, China’s military and intelligence agencies also stole research from key U.S. technology companies and sectors. …

China has almost caught up to the United States in its annual number of doctoral degrees in science and engineering, with 34,000 vs. the United States’ 40,000.

hat-tip Bob