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R&D and Technological Change in the People’s Republic of China

FOCUS ASIA, 16-17 April 2007

Research and development has become a global task that is no longer limited to the leading industrialized nations. In recent years China is emerging as a new centre for knowledge production. Between 1995 and 2004 China doubled its R&D expenditures from 0.6% to 1.3% of its GDP and increased its number of researchers by 77%. With a budget of    € 102 billion in 2006 China surpassed Japan as the second biggest R&D investor, only outrun by the US. China’s rise as a major player in the global race for innovation is puzzling since it stands in sharp contrast to the weak protection of intellectual property rights and the widely perceived image of China as a major production site for labor-intense low-tech manufacturing. Political calls urging OECD nations to “make their R&D systems more efficient to keep up ” reflect the political pressure in leading industrialized nations to react. There is, however, a substantial lack of knowledge on R&D activities in China. Where and how does R&D emerge? Which role do public and private actors play? To what extend is R&D transferred into technological change? And do possible IPR violations act to curb domestic R&D? These are only a few questions that research on China’s innovation system has to address in order to draw a more differentiated picture and to derive policy implications.

Focus Asia in April 2007 hosted a workshop on R&D and technological change in China inviting researches from China, the US and Europe with a long-standing expertise in the field. Three panels aimed to grasp on (1) China’s R&D capabilities and the country’s strategies on innovation, (2) the spatial imbalances between China’s science and technology parks on the one hand and its backward regions on the other hand as well as (3) the opportunities and threats for foreign firms that conduct R&D in China.


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