China has overtaken the United States as the world leader in scientific research

China has overtaken the United States as the world leader in scientific research

A team of Chinese scientists at work.Image CFOTO / Future Publishing via Getty Images

When it comes to the question of what is the most powerful country in the world, people usually look at the size of the economy. Still high on that list is the United States, with a projected GDP of $25 trillion (12 zeros), according to the International Monetary Fund. Yet every year, US policymakers look anxiously at China, which is expected to continue catching up to nearly $20 trillion in GDP this year.

In scientific research, China has already outpaced the competition, it seems now. According to research released Tuesday by Japan’s National Institute of Research and Technology, China published an average of 407,181 scientific articles annually between 2018 and 2020.

This represents 23.4 percent of the total number of scientific papers published in those years. Followed by the United States with 293,434 publications, and Germany comes in third place.

Quantity and effect

Scientific research in China has been unparalleled not only in quantity, but also in impact. By far, the largest number of articles cited between 2018 and 2020 came from China. The number of times a research paper is cited by other scholars is often seen as a measure of research quality and impact.

Where the United States has dominated that list for decades, 27.2 percent of the world’s 1 percent of the world’s most cited articles are written by Chinese. Research from the US made up 24.9 per cent of the most cited studies between 2018 and 2020. The UK, at 5.5 per cent, came third.

The Netherlands, which was still eighth in the most prestigious list between 1998 and 2000, disappeared from the top ten.

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