China's Drive for Leadership in Global Research and Development

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In this week's Innovation Lightbulb newsletter, we highlight China's increasing expenditure on R&D.

R&D funding plays a crucial role in driving innovation and technological advancements. Historically, the United States has been the leading country in R&D spending, investing more than twice the amount of its closest competitor throughout the 2000s. However, China has made significant progress in R&D expenditures over the past two decades, surpassing Japan and Germany and narrowing the gap with the United States.

In 2000, China contributed less than 5 percent of global R&D funding. However, by 2020, China had significantly increased its R&D investment, contributing over 24 percent of total global funding according to data from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). China is now the second-largest spender on R&D among leading nations, highlighting the country's ambitions in science and technology. While the U.S. total remains strong, CRS data show that its share of total global expenditure dropped to just under 31 percent in 2020, down from nearly 40 percent in 2000.

China's significant investment and support for R&D projects indicate its determination to compete in innovation for the foreseeable future, a strategy directly tied to its geopolitical ambitions.

It is vital for the United States to retain its position as a global leader in funding for research and development in science and technology, which is increasingly becoming a primary domain for geopolitical competition.

Data visualization by Jaehyun Han

Bailey Crane

Research Intern, Renewing American Innovation Project