• By The Financial District


China continued its years-long run of double-digit percentage increases in spending on research and development (R&D) in 2019, but the nation is likely to fall short of a long-standing goal of increasing R&D expenditures to 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) by this year, Dennis Normile wrote for Science late on August 28, 2020.

But not hitting the target “should not be considered a failure, as China has been increasing its R&D expenditure over the past several decades at a rate higher than GDP growth,” says Cao Cong, a science policy specialist at the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo, China, campus.

Total public and private science and technology expenditures in 2019 rose 12.5% over the previous year to 2.21 trillion Chinese yuan ($322 billion), the National Bureau of Statistics reported yesterday. Spending on basic research accounted for 6% of the total; applied research, 11.3%, and; development, 82.7%. The spending amounted to 2.23% of GDP, an increase of 0.09 percentage points from the previous year. In terms of absolute expenditures, China is the world’s second biggest spender on R&D, with $468 billion versus the United States’s investment of $582 billion in 2018 according to OECD’s purchasing power parity comparison.

The 2.5% of GDP by 2020 goal was spelled out in China’s most recent Five Year Plan and in a 15-year Medium and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development. For comparison, the United States spent 2.83% of GDP on R&D in 2018, according to the 5 August Main Science and Technology Indicators of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which covers 37 of the world’s largest national economies. OECD as a whole spent 2.38% of GDP on R&D in 2018. Israel and South Korea spent 4.9% and 4.5% of GDP, respectively, in 2018.