Monday, January 10, 2011

China hasn't beat us yet

There is a remarkable amount of worry going on over the rise of China. So much that I just don't think people realize how far ahead we really are.

As of today the United States has a GDP three times that of China. Our population is less of a quarter that of China. This means that the average American earns, and presumably produces, twelve times as much as the average Chinese!

Chinese have earned 13 Nobel Prizes. Americans have earned 326. This actually overstates the contribution of China to Science, because a lot of these people are Chinese and were born in China but were educated outside the country and currently work in American Universities. A great example is Roger Tsien, listed as a Chinese Nobel Prize winner in the Wikipedia page, but Harvard educated and currently working at UC San Diego. Now, anyone who has spent time around American research universities knows they are full of brilliant Chinese students. This isn't necessarily reason to expect China to surpass us though. Chinese typically have been more productive scientists here than they have in China. That may change, but I will believe it when I see it.

When it comes to military spending China also comes up far short. Currently the United States spends about seven times as much on its military as China does. Also, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan it is safe to say America has one of the most experienced armed forces in the world as well as the most expensive.

This isn't to say China won't surpass us. Countries rise and fall, there is no reason to expect that American dominance will last forever. What the Chinese have done in the past thirty years is really quite remarkable. If Americans don't continue to work hard and be creative than the chances of being surpassed are quite high. Just don't be shocked if they follow in the footsteps of the Japanese hitting an economic brick wall before catching up.

1 comment:

Cletis L. Stump said...

The Chinese have a saying, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down."

This ,I believe, helps explain their relatively few scientific breakthroughs. Uniformity and conformity do not facilitate innovation.