Nevertheless, the weakness of the United States is that it constantly underestimates the efforts and capabilities of its competitors. This means there will be surprises because China is making tremendous efforts and has tremendous talents. Over the past twenty years, its investment in R&D has doubled from .73 percent of GDP to 1.77 percent and the plan is to reach the European level of 2.5 percent by 2020. Just in the past decade, the volume of Chinese investment in R&D has grown by more than 600 percent, according to Professor of Technology and Innovation Management at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Professor Marc Laperrouza of the Evian Group at IMD, HEC, the University of Lausanne, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. As a result, they say, China will soon go from being the world’s biggest factory to being its biggest laboratory.
They also note that China is graduating more than 700,000 engineers annually compared to about 60,000 in the United States. Of course, numbers like these can be misleading. What is an engineer? The standards vary greatly from country to country. We must also keep population sizes in mind when making comparisons. If we ask what percentage of students around the world are earning degrees in science and engineering, the answer in Europe , Asia, or the United States, the answer everywhere is 10-13 percent, according to former MIT President Charles Vest.