China leads the world in research into advanced technologies like AI - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 18 January 2023

China leads the world in research into advanced technologies like AI


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 19th Jan 23


US analysts of government investment in science and technology (S&T) report that China has taken the lead in highly regarded scientific research into cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).


“Chinese scholars now publish a larger fraction of the top one per cent most cited scientific papers globally than scientists from any other country,” says Caroline Wagner, a US policy expert who studies government investment in S&T.


China’s sprint to the top began in 1977, when the science-minded Deng Xiaoping, who succeeded Mao Zedong Deng, introduced the Four Modernisations. One of these was to strengthen China’s progress of S&T.


Until as recently as 2000, the US continued to produce many times the number of scientific papers each year as China did. However, the last two decades of investing funds into indigenous research and shifting emphasis to high-tech manufacture, China is emphatically at the top.


In 2017, for the first time, Chinese scholars published more scientific papers that American researchers. In 2022, Chinese researchers published three times as many papers on AI as US researchers.


“Since 2000, China has sent an estimated 5.2 million students and scholars to study abroad. The majority of them studied science or engineering,” says Wagner.


Currently, China trails only the US in national expenditure on S&T. Chinese universities, which have improved dramatically in recent years, now produce the world’s largest number of engineering Ph.Ds each year.


As Chinese scientific power first began growing, the academic community in America and Europe dismissed Chinese research as low quality and imitative. However, an analysis of citations revealed that this was not so.


A citation means the referencing or citing of an academic paper by another paper. The greater the number of times a paper has been cited, the more high quality and influential it can be regarded as. By that logic, the top one per cent most cited papers could be considered to represent the top echelon of S&T.


Wagner and her research team counted the number of papers each country had in the top one per cent each year, measured by the number of citations it had received in various disciplines.


In 2019, China topped the list, with 8,422 articles in the “most cited” one per cent. The US followed with 7,959 articles and the European Union had 6,074.


“[In] 2022, Chinese researchers published three times as many papers on artificial intelligence as US researchers; in the top one per cent, most cited artificial intelligence research, Chinese papers outnumbered US papers by a 2-to-1 ratio… China [also led] in nanoscience, chemistry and transportation,” reported Wagner.


The study also looked at the mix of disciplines referenced in the papers. The more diverse and varied the referenced research in a single paper, the more inter-disciplinary and novel the work was regarded as. Chinese research was found to be as innovative as other top performing countries.


China is clearly not just an imitator, but is a scientific power on par with the US and Europe. To support US technology firms in countering China’s scientific growth, President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on August 9. 

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