China’s science enterprise challenging US leadership

© Shutterstock

Countries in south and east Asia are increasingly challenging the science and technology leadership of the US and other nations, according to new data released by the US National Science Board (NSB). Although the NSB found that the US remains the top investor in R&D, and produces the most advanced degrees in science and engineering, as well as high impact scientific publications, the board determined that south-east, south and east Asia now accounts for 40% of global R&D, with China leading the pack.

China ramped up its R&D investments between 2003 and 2013 at an average of 19.5% annually, greatly exceeding that of the US, the NSB notes. The board’s new 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators show that China is now the second-largest investor in R&D, accounting for 20% of global R&D, compared with the US’s 27%. 

The number of students earning degrees in China has grown faster than in major developed nations, rising more than 300% between 2000 and 2012. In particular, science and engineering degrees account for 49% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in China, compared to 33% in the US. More science or engineering degrees are awarded in China than any other country. 

Students in China earned about 23% of the world’s science and engineering degrees in 2012, compared to 12% in the EU and 9% in the US. The NSB notes that the US continues to award the largest number of science and engineering doctorates and remains the ‘destination of choice’ for internationally mobile students.

Related Content

Global R&D trends challenge traditional science powerhouses

27 June 2016 News and Analysis

news image

As more nations fund science and global R&D investments shift east, traditional science leaders like the US and UK are under ...

Potash on a megascale

11 March 2016 Premium contentFeature

news image

A new mine could produce up to 20 million tonnes of potash each year and provide 1000 jobs – but it’s in a national park....

Most Commented

Ethanol to butanol conversion shows sustainable potential

13 January 2016 Research

news image

Borrowed hydrogen chemistry drives reaction to obtain useful fuel from biomass

Israeli chemists urge government to ban chemical weapons

21 July 2016 News and Analysis

news image

Open letter presses prime minister to ‘remove the curse of chemical weapons from the face of the Earth’