Policy brief

The challenge of China’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse

China's ambition to be a global leader in science and innovation by 2050 seems well within reach. The creation of US-Chinese science and technology ne

Publishing date
04 July 2017

China is building up its global competitiveness in knowledge-intensive sectors and its ambition to be a global leader in science and innovation by 2050 seems well within reach. China outperforms the European Union in terms of expenditure on research and development as a share of its GDP, and already produces about the same number of scientific publications, and more PhDs in natural sciences and engineering, than the United States.

China aspires to produce and capitalise on home-grown scientific talent, but its growth model for science still involves sending out its increasingly better locally-trained scholars to the best institutes in the world and reaping the benefits when they return in the later stages of their careers, after they have fully developed their capabilities and built their networks. The US remains the favoured destination for Chinese students, which has led to the creation of US-Chinese science and technology networks and connections that are mutually beneficial: enabling China to catch up and helping the US to keep its position at the science frontier.

The EU has much less-developed scientific connections to China than the US. The EU should take steps to engage more with China if it is not to miss out in the future multipolar science and technology world.

About the authors

  • Reinhilde Veugelers

    Prof Dr. Reinhilde Veugelers is a full professor at KULeuven (BE) at the Department of Management, Strategy and Innovation.  She has been a Senior fellow at Bruegel since 2009.  She is also a CEPR Research Fellow, a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and of the Academia Europeana. From 2004-2008, she was on academic leave, as advisor at the European Commission (BEPA Bureau of European Policy Analysis).  She served on the ERC Scientific Council from 2012-2018 and on the RISE Expert Group advising the commissioner for Research.  She is a member of VARIO, the expert group advising the Flemish minister for Innovation. She is currently a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors of the journal Science and a co-PI on the Science of Science Funding Initiative at NBER.

    With her research concentrated in the fields of industrial organisation, international economics and strategy, innovation and science, she has authored numerous well cited publications in leading international journals.  Specific recent topics include novelty in technology development,  international technology transfers through MNEs, global innovation value chains, young innovative companies, innovation for climate change,  industry science links and their impact on firm’s innovative productivity, evaluation of research & innovation policy,  explaining scientific productivity,  researchers’ international mobility,  novel scientific research.

    Websites:
    https://feb.kuleuven.be/reinhilde.veugelers
    https://bruegel.org/author/reinhilde-veugelers/

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