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China Ranks Second in Frontier Science, Technology Research

China ranks second globally in ground-breaking scientific and technological research, according to the annual reports titled “Research Fronts 2021” and “Research Fronts 2021: Active Fields, Leading Countries” were released by the Institutes of Science and Development under the China Academy of Sciences (CAS), the National Science Library, and an analytics company.

The reports evaluated the performance of leading countries in “hot” and emerging fields of scientific and technological research. The reports identified 171 research fronts, including 110 hot and 61 emerging fronts in 11 broad research areas in sciences and social sciences. Research Fronts are formed when clusters of highly cited papers are frequently cited together, reflecting a specific commonality in the research – sometimes experimental data, a method, a concept or a hypothesis.

Around one-third of the Research Fronts identified this year are related to COVID-19. These include six among the top 10 Research Fronts in clinical medicine and three among the top 10 Research Fronts in biological sciences. The research being produced in these areas is instrumental to the fight against the disease and will have an enormous impact on the world.

Research Fronts 2021 is an important collaborative achievement. Basic research is the foundation of CAS. We have started strategic research programs including ‘Study and analysis on China’s major scientific and technological breakthrough that may impact the future global landscape’, in a move to better understand the future direction and focus of science and technology. We will leverage our research resources to make better forward-looking analysis on China’s key breakthrough in science and technology that may affect the future of the world, as well as better support China’s strategic plan in scientific and technological innovation.

– Gao Hongjun, Vice President, CAS

The reports show that China’s vitality in research, as measured by the Research Leadership Index (RLI), is gaining momentum. Moreover, China ranks top in seven broad areas of research covering the fields of agricultural sciences, ecology and environmental science, clinical medicine, chemistry and materials science, mathematics, information science and economics, psychology and other social sciences. China made big progress in its frontier research on clinical medicine, jumping from 12th place in 2020 to the top position in 2021, thanks mainly to its research on COVID-related diagnosis and treatment.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, another recent report titled “China Tech Decoupled” examined how China is building up a self-reliant domestic IT infrastructure ecosystem with detailed analysis. How China’s tech sector evolves and potentially decouples from the global tech system is one of the most important factors shaping the future. The report sheds light on how China’s effort to build up key domestic substitute IT infrastructure is going and how it will impact the world’s tech landscape.

China realised that it depended heavily on foreign technology, particularly in a critical industry: semiconductors. Since then, a renewed national campaign to build up China’s self-reliant supply chains picked up pace significantly. A new industry suddenly became the centre of the spotlight for governments and private businesses. Referred to as Xin Chuang, or Information Technology Application Innovation Industry, this industry aims to build up a comprehensive, self-reliant Chinese domestic information technology industry from chips, operating systems, and applications.

China is likely to make reasonable progress in domestic replacement in the next decade in markets such as Internet-of-Things (IoT) O.S., cyber security, cloud computing, computing devices, and servers. These markets do not have as high technological barriers or long R&D cycles as chip manufacturing. As a greater share of these markets is captured by domestic companies, foreign companies will gradually lose market share and influence over the Chinese market.

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