'China may become scientific superpower'

By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-18 07:16

LONDON: China is on the way to becoming a scientific superpower, thanks to the massive increase in its spending on research and the return of an increasing number of its scientists from abroad, a leading British think tank has said.

The report by London-based Demos, The Atlas of Ideas: Mapping the New Geography of Science, however, doesn't give a specific year when China would achieve that status.

But according to China's plan, it will reshape itself as an innovative nation by 2020, and could become a scientific superpower by 2050.

Nevertheless, the Demos report warns that China's long-term progress could be hampered by its rigid institutional system.

The final report is based on a series of four reports after a 18-month study led by Demos. The reports focus on the dramatic growth and pace of scientific innovation in China, India and South Korea, with the fourth providing an overview of the international situation and outlining how the UK should respond to it.

"China's Taiwan and South Korea made themselves centres for innovation over the past 20 years, and the Chinese mainland is catching up fast," the report's co-author James Wilsdon said yesterday.

"In fact, in some growth areas, such as nanotechnology, it is moving even faster than Europe," Wilsdon, head of the Demos innovation team, said.

One report forecast that the rise of China, India and South Korea would reshape the global innovation landscape. "The centre of gravity of innovation has started moving from the West to the East," the report says.

The think tank even warned that US and European pre-eminence in scientific innovation could no longer be taken for granted.

Investment into and funding of science and innovation projects in China is growing rapidly, and its impact on the international community is already significant, the report says.

Since 1999, China's spending on research and development (R&D) has increased by more than 20 per cent a year. It has replaced Japan to become the world's highest spender on R&D after the US.

The rising number of multinational R&D centers, steady return of the country's scientists from the US and Europe and the growing pool of graduates will help China realize its goal, Wilsdon said.

"Beijing's university district alone has as many engineers as all of Western Europe, and you can imagine how dynamic the potential is."

(China Daily 01/18/2007 page4)

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