The gap in research and development funding between the United States and China is closing fast, despite modest increases in U.S. funding since 2000, according to statistics assembled by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
The United States is increasingly "seen globally as an important leader rather than the uncontested leader" in science and engineering, the agency said in the latest edition of its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report, which compiles metrics on the state of science and engineering in the United States.
From 2000 to 2017, R&D spending in the United States grew at an average of 4.3% per year, says the report. But spending in China grew by more than 17% per year during the same period. Several other countries also increased their spending at rates that outstripped that of the United States. The United States accounted for 25% of the US$2.2 trillion spent on R&D worldwide in 2017, and China made up 23%.
Preliminary data from 2019 suggest that China has already surpassed the United States in R&D spending, said Julia Philips, chair of the National Science Board's science and engineering policy committee.
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