• By The Financial District


China has an image problem and a very hostile working environment for innovative high technology research that not only repels foreign talent but also limits research and development (R&D) by homegrown scientists and computer experts.

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Writing for the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Winston Mok, who has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said “China can do more to polish its appeal as a home for global tech talent, but must ultimately rely on its own, which it has in abundance.”

He argued that the obstacle lies in persuading them that China’s restrictive environment offers them the best opportunities for creative growth.

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“China won’t become the world’s leading country on US President Joe Biden’s watch, even though it is already the world’s top manufacturing and trading nation. China’s gross domestic product in terms of purchasing power is the world’s largest, but its nominal per capita GDP is less than one-sixth of the US.

Even if China’s nominal GDP surpasses America’s later this decade, as projected, China will still be a much poorer country. It may take a generation for China’s per capita GDP to approach even half the US,” Mok revealed.

The crux of the matter is technology. The world’s five technology powerhouses, in terms of spending on research and development, are the US, Germany, Japan, South Korea, and China. Among them, how much can China improve and how fast?

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Although China has the benefit of scale, after adjusting for the size of its population and economy, it actually appears a laggard among the five. It is South Korea that punches above its weight, Mok stressed. The outcome of the technology race is shaped by at least three factors: investment, human capital, and institutions.

Although China’s corporate-driven R&D spending has grown rapidly, as a proportion of its economy, it still lagged behind that of many East Asian and Western counterparts. South Korea, Japan and Germany have higher R&D intensity while the US is still the foremost in scale.

And, contrary to common perceptions, a lower proportion of R&D in China is directly funded by the government than that in Germany or the US, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mok concluded.


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