China's “Great Leap Forward” in Science and Engineering

31 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2015 Last revised: 24 Apr 2015

See all articles by Richard B. Freeman

Richard B. Freeman

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); University of Edinburgh - School of Social and Political Studies; Harvard University; London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

Wei Huang

Harvard University - Department of Economics; NBER; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: April 2015

Abstract

In the past two decades China leaped from bit player in global science and engineering (S&E) to become the world's largest source of S&E graduates and the second largest spender on R&D and second largest producer of scientific papers. As a latecomer to modern science and engineering, China trailed the US and other advanced countries in the quality of its universities and research but was improving both through the mid-2010s. This paper presents evidence that China's leap benefited greatly from the country's positive response to global opportunities to educate many of its best and brightest overseas and from the deep educational and research links it developed with the US. The findings suggest that global mobility of people and ideas allowed China to reach the scientific and technological frontier much faster and more efficiently.

Suggested Citation

Freeman, Richard B. and Huang, Wei, China's “Great Leap Forward” in Science and Engineering (April 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21081, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593660

Richard B. Freeman (Contact Author)

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Wei Huang

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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