According to a worldwide technology competiveness study by the Georgia Institute of Technology China may soon rival the United States as the principal driver of the world’s economy and become the technology development leader.
1993-2007 world technology competitiveness
The study’s indicators predict that China will soon pass the United States in the critical ability to develop basic science and technology, turn those developments into products and services – and then market them to the world.
The 2007 statistics show China with a technological standing of 82.8, compared to 76.1 for the United States, 66.8 for Germany and 66.0 for Japan. Just 11 years ago, China’s score was only 22.5. The United States peaked in 1999 with a score of 95.4.
“China has really changed the world economic landscape in technology,” said Alan Porter, another study co-author and co-director of the Georgia Tech Technology Policy and Assessment Center, which conducted the research. “When you take China’s low-cost manufacturing and focus on technology, then combine them with the increasing emphasis on research and development, the result ultimately won’t leave much room for other countries.”
Recent statistics for the value of technology products exported – a key component of technological standing – put China behind the United States by the amount of “a rounding error:” about $100 million. If that trend continues, Newman noted, China will shortly pass the United States in that measure of technological leadership.
China’s emphasis on training scientists and engineers – who conduct the research needed to maintain technological competitiveness – suggests it will continue to grow its ability to innovate. In the United States, the training of scientists and engineers has lagged, and post-9/11 immigration barriers have kept out international scholars who could help fill the gap.
China is becoming a leader in research and development, Porter noted. For instance, China now leads the world in publications on nanotechnology, though U.S. papers still receive more citations.
China has been dramatically improving its input scores, which portends even stronger technological competitiveness in the future.
“It’s like being 40 years old and playing basketball against a competitor who’s only 12 years old – but is already at your height,” Newman said. “You are a little better right now and have more experience, but you’re not going to squeeze much more performance out. The future clearly doesn’t look good for the United States.”