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Innovation in China: The best and worst of times

By Cong Cao

Research misconduct is "serious and widespread" among Chinese scientists.

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'It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." The opening line of English novelist Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is perhaps an apt description of the status of innovation in China today. In terms of political stability and volume of research funding, few would argue that China is currently in the throes of "the best of times", free from the upheavals and setbacks that checkered the first 30 years of the modern People's Republic of China.

Consequently, what the British philosopher Bertrand Russell envisaged 90 years ago is, on the surface, finally being realized: "If the Chinese could get a stable government and sufficient funds, they would, within the next 30 years, begin to produce remarkable work in science."
Indeed, backed by political support at the highest level, China's science and technology (S&T) capabilities are on a sharply upward trajectory.

Its spending on research and development (R&D) has increased more rapidly than that of overall economic growth. In 2010, the nation spent 706 billion yuan ($103 billion; 85 billion euros) or 1.76 percent of its growing GDP on R&D, putting China second to only the US. In addition, China's R&D personnel reached 2.29 million person-years and it now produces the largest number of undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as doctorates in science and engineering.

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Cong Cao is Associate Professor and Reader in the University of Nottingham's School of Contemporary Chinese Studies. Reproduced from China Daily.