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Get ready for China's domination of science

Since its economic reform began in 1978, China has gone from being a poor developing country to the second-largest economy in the world. China has also emerged from isolation to become a political superpower. Its meteoric rise has been one of the most important global changes of recent years: the rise of China was the most-read news story of the decade, surpassing even 9/11 and the Iraq war.

Yet when it comes to science and technology, most people still think of China as being stuck in the past and only visualize a country with massive steelworks and vast smoking factories.

That may have been true a few years ago, but it is no longer the case. Very quietly, China has become the world's second-largest producer of scientific knowledge, surpassed only by the US, a status it has achieved at an awe-inspiring rate. If it continues on its current trajectory China will overtake the US before 2020 and the world will look very different as a result. The historical scientific dominance of North America and Europe will have to adjust to a new world order.

In the west, we are largely familiar with research systems in which money, people and output stay roughly the same from year to year. Research spending in Europe and North America has outpaced economic growth since 1945, but not by a dramatic amount.
 
 

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