PRC Passed US in S&E PhDs in 2006

I regret to report that another of our pessimistic forecasts in the Rio paper has come to pass.  According to the new book, China’s Emerging Technological Edge by Denis Simon and Cong Cao, the PRC produced more (26,396) doctorates in science and engineering than the US (with 22,316) in 2006, plus 4323 of those US grads were Chinese nationals.  The book cites (NSF 2007) as a source, but I can’t find this in the book; I’ll try to track it down at NSF.  I’m sure it is accurate, though, because when I plotted the curves through 2005, it was obvious that the Chinese one would soon cross the US one.

This is a spectacular achievement.  Again according to this book, China produced no PhDs until after the end of the Cultural Revolution.  It produced its first 13 in 1982, all in S&T.  I can’t calculate the compound growth rate here, but if you had bought a round lot of stock with this kind of growth in 1982, you would now be as rich as Bill Gates.

Of course this is not a natural economic phenomenon.  The CCP has adopted policies to funnel vast and rapidly increasing investments into this sector, just as they have in R&D.  And they are not wasting their money.  Outputs like PhDs in S&E and scientific papers in the world’s leading journals have quickly gone from nothing to the point where they have passed the US or soon will.

Congratulations to the winners, but the losers may rue the day when they fell behind.

 R. D. Shelton