China outranks US in study of hi-tech competitiveness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am

A study of technological competitiveness by a research institute in the US has given China - often regarded as a low-tech, low-cost manufacturing centre - its highest ranking to date.

The study, which has been compiled by the Georgia Institute of Technology for the past 20 years and covers 33 countries, gave China a rating of 82.8 last year. The US stood at 76.1, Germany 66.8, and Japan 66. Just 11 years ago, China's score was only 22.5. The US peaked in 1999 with a score of 95.4. The scores are scaled from 0 to 100.

The figures, indicating each nation's recent success in exporting hi-tech products, were determined by four factors: orientation towards technological competitiveness, socioeconomic infrastructure, technological infrastructure, and productive capacity. Each of the factors was judged on the basis of statistical data and expert opinion.

China trailed the US by only US$100 million in the value of technological products exported, according to the study, which has been funded by the US National Science Foundation since the mid-1980s.

China would also soon pass the US in that measure of technological leadership, the study's co-author, Nils Newman, said in a press release.

'For the first time in nearly a century, we see leadership in basic research and the economic ability to pursue the benefits of that research ... in more than one place on the planet,' Dr Newman said.

'Since World War II, the United States has been the main driver of the global economy.

'Now we have a situation in which technology products are going to be appearing in the marketplace that were not developed or commercialised here. We won't have any involvement with them, and may not even know they are coming.'

However, at The Hague on Thursday, a senior Beijing science and technology official described the status of innovation on the mainland as 'low' and lacking in originality.

Zhang Weixing, vice-director general of the Ministry of Science and Technology's Torch Hi-Tech Industrial Development Centre, acknowledged the nation's backwardness at a conference hosted by the European Patent Office, Xinhua reported.

Mainland industry, now suffering from low research and development investment, was lacking expertise in some key hi-tech fields and was highly dependent on foreign input, Mr Zhang said.

More than 40 per cent of the mainland's 210,000 patent applications in 2006 came from foreign companies, and the intensity of research and development in the hi-tech industry was significantly lower than that of developed countries, he said.

Mr Zhang said the central government would make concerted efforts to encourage innovation on the mainland, including raising investment, adjusting trade and tax policies, and building up specialised development zones to facilitate the industrialisation of advanced science and technology.