2008 August 02 Saturday
China Nears US In Number Of Physics Papers Published

China continues its rapid ascent toward displacing the United States as most powerful country in the world.

Judged by the astonishing increase in journal papers written by scientists in China, there can be little doubt that China is finding its place as one of the world's scientific power houses. Michael Banks, Physics World's News Editor, quantifies this surge in scientific output from China and asks whether quality matches quantity in August's Physics World.

Nanoscience, quantum computing and high-temperature superconductivity are three of the cutting-edge areas of physics that have seen particularly large increases. Published journal articles in nanoscience, for example, with at least one co-author based in China, have seen a 10-fold increase since the beginning of the millennium, rising to more than 10,500 in 2007.

China has already overtaken the UK and Germany in the number of physics papers published and is beginning to nip at the heels of the United States. If China's output continues to increase at its current pace, the country will be publishing more articles in physics - and indeed all of science - than the US by 2012.

Quantity alone however is not enough. The number of times a journal paper is cited by other academics in their own journal papers is often used as a guide to journal papers' quality. Unfortunately for China, they are currently a long way from the national citation top spot, ranked in 65th for physics, just ahead of Kuwait, with an average of 4.12 citations for each of the papers published.

As China has only just started to publish large volumes of work, it is not a fair reflection. Werner Marx, an information scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany, who carried out a bibliometric study for the Physics World article, said, "The figure is still quite impressive, and I estimate this will rise substantially in the next few years."

We are going to witness a big downturn in American exceptionalism rhetoric as China surpasses the United States as top in science, technology, total economic output, and many other measures. Both the Left and Right in America are in for a rude awakening as this happens. The argument that liberalism is one right way to organize a society is going to take some heavy hits as rather illiberal China becomes the dominant power and many societies try to ape China rather than the United States. Liberal Manifest Destiny isn't going to happen.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 02 08:55 PM  China

HellKaiserRyo said at August 2, 2008 10:26 PM:

Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen's ideas are correct.

China has a surplus of males, I wonder if they would be employed. If not, they might become political activists who want to redistribute prosperity. I suppose that is a wild card too, but I suppose their dissent will be suppressed.

cb said at August 2, 2008 11:20 PM:

China seems expert at cultivating savants at the expense of the rest of their population, sort of like Russia writ large (and the fine-china curtain is even more brittle). I don't think it's sustainable with the rest of their fascism. Something is going to break, and it won't look pretty when it does.

That's not to say that a thriving middle class isn't popping through the cracks of corruption, but if I were them I'd worry whether those who are thriving don't happen to provide the support mechanism for these scientific minds.

Also, I wonder how much of this is actually going on outside of the free-port cities, which may go city-state if China begins to contract.

averros said at August 2, 2008 11:56 PM:

Quantity of papers does not magically translate into quality.

In fact, ever-increasing numbers of scientific papers only serve to reduce the signal/noise ratio in scientific discourse. The more people publish, the harder it is to find anything useful in the avalanche of mundane and mediocre stuff.

As for the alleged Chinese scientific advances... well. Try to name a specific one.

The problem with Chinese science is that Chinese culture is still very paternalistic - which tends to kill scientific creativity (which, by necessity, always overturns older dogmas and, as a result, reflects negatively on "patriarchs" of science).

HellKaiserRyo said at August 3, 2008 3:05 AM:

Averros, maybe you are correct, a lower standard deviation of intelligence (as opposed to simply have a higher mean) might not be so conducive to quality.

JSBolton said at August 3, 2008 3:23 AM:

China has huge numbers of very smart people who would be in the top 1% here. Their weakness is their reverence for authority, which is pervasive yet really damaging in terms of the reverence for, and submission to, intellectual authority. Raising them outside China for generations does not make it go away. They wouldn't be depending on espionage to get weaponry if their large numbers of smart people could come up with something new of consequence. We would be spying on them, trying to steal their methods. China is headed for a long slow spell, like what Japan had over the last 15 years or so, and for the same reasons. Dollar support is a onetime approach with diminishing returns for each next country which tries it.

Stephen said at August 3, 2008 4:24 AM:

John, they're being smart - stealing military tech is much better than wasting huge amounts of tax-payers money feeding the parasitic military-industrial complex needed to develop the tech in the first place.

Stephen said at August 3, 2008 4:29 AM:

I watched a news item a couple of hours ago where some scientists at a western university were showing off some really fancy work - the science team consisted of two Chinese and two Indians. Not a white face to be seen.

Big Bill said at August 3, 2008 5:35 AM:

How much longer we can keep subsidizing their doctorates at hundreds of research institutions across this country?

Wolf-Dog said at August 3, 2008 2:11 PM:

Clearly, East Asian countries have much higher average IQ scores than white European countries.
Here are some statistics:


Rank Country IQ estimate
1 Hong Kong 107
2 South Korea 106
3 Japan 105
4 Taiwan 104
5 Singapore 103

Because China is a very large country that is in rapid developments, accurate average IQ scores are not available, but by looking at Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is clear that in those cities and towns of Chian where there is access to decent education, the IQ scores must be similarly high.

At this early phase of government-subsidized academic growth in China, the "mass production" of science can initially sacrifice some quality, but within a decade, China will challenge the Western world in science and engineering. In the United States, we have at least 5 Nobel laureates of Chinese ancestry, including Steven Chu who was educated at Berkeley:

But at the same time, there s clear anecdotal evidence that a lot more American educated East Asian students are returning back to their countries due to the growth there, and this means that we now have a growing shortage of scientists and engineers in the United States. This shortage will soon reach crisis proportions. The United States used to be the main beneficiary of the brain drain from all the Asian countries, but this time the direction of the brain drain has been reversed, and therefore it is time to start revitalizing the high school education in the United States.

Stephen said at August 3, 2008 3:36 PM:

We are now seeing the first generation of chinese raised from conception in an environment providing good food, good sanitation and good education. One child policies help too - a one child family will commit enourmous resource to ensuring that child excels.

Stephen said at August 3, 2008 3:39 PM:

The other thing is that they're not choosing parasitic professions like law etc. Hard science and engineering rules, and each of those grads will have a life time of interesting work (especially the engineers).

No doubt law etc will become popular by generation three.

GM said at August 4, 2008 2:27 AM:

We should stop worrying about China and mind our own store. If the focus was on our own country, perhaps we could find out what is wrong and what can be done about it.

Section 8 said at August 4, 2008 5:26 AM:

"We should stop worrying about China and mind our own store. If the focus was on our own country, perhaps we could find out what is wrong and what can be done about it."

The problem in the US is our minority population. Unfortunately, it is also growing. That jap Pm was right...

bill said at August 4, 2008 10:22 AM:

Yes, and both the left and right will want to emulate the Chinese by implementing more and more of some type of control or more authority type mandates....although more from the usual Left to continue to fit their innate fascist tendencies.

Randall Parker said at August 4, 2008 6:06 PM:


China has more smart people than we do. What do you suggest we do about that?

Daniel said at August 4, 2008 6:48 PM:

I welcome the rise of China, as I do of India. I only wish that Latin America would get its act together too.

I wish all these societies well (even the Muslims). I so wish them well because I want them to provide fruitful opportunities for their people so that their people stay home and don't come to my country. I take no vacarious pride in the U.S. being the BEST in everything. I just wish to be left alone. That is my pride: being left alone. This sentiment, the desire to be left alone, used to be the exemplary ideal of the American people. Where did it go? Anyway, go China, go India, go Brazil, go, go, go.......

scottynx said at August 4, 2008 9:29 PM:

HellRaiserKyo: "Averros, maybe you are correct, a lower standard deviation of intelligence (as opposed to simply have a higher mean) might not be so conducive to quality."

Cite? Razib at gene expression says that PISA results say you are wrong: http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/06/east-asian-psychometric-variance.php

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