Is China close to overtaking the US?

According to Anatoly Karlin, it’s getting there:

But as of this year, China is hurtling past yet another set of inflection points – the hi-tech component of its economy, roughly comparable to any of the major European Powers a mere decade ago, is now about to converge and then hurtle past that of the US by the end of the 2010s (even if in per capita terms it remains considerably behind, like South Korea 20 years ago).

This process can be proxied by three indicators: Number of scientific articles published, operational stock of industrial robots, and number of supercomputers.

It’s likely only a matter of time before China surpasses the US/Europe as a high-tech superpower. I don’t know when this will happen, as China still lags behind considerably:

China urgently needs to upgrade its industries by overcoming insufficient innovation to increase the contribution of technology to economic growth, Chinese business and government leaders concluded Sunday at a session on China’s New Business Context at the Summer Davos in North China’s Tianjin.

But it’s the trajectory that should interest us. In just a few decades, as Karlin points out, China became the world’s largest producer of coal and steel, then the world’s leading manufacturer, and is now rapidly closing the gap with the US in key measures of scientific and technological advancement. That’s a lot of progress in the space of a generation. We’re probably about to see a lot more.

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