China remains upwardly mobile

China has moved higher into the hierarchy of technology exporters, according to a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

‘China’s upsurge was a surprise in 1999 and it’s still coming on strong,’ said Alan Porter, co-director of Georgia Tech’s Technology Policy and Assessment Center (TPAC), which conducts the study, ‘Indicators of Technology-Based Competitiveness.’

Sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, the study is updated every three years to see how different countries size up on high-tech exports, with an emphasis on industrialising economies.

During the last decade, China is said to have more than doubled its score on ‘technological standing’ (TS), a key benchmark that gauges current global competitiveness. This year, China received a 49.3 rating, compared to 20.7 in 1993, 22.5 in 1996 and 44.2 in 1999.

In 1993, China’s closest neighbours on the TS scale were Spain and South Africa whereas this year’s study shows China slightly above the Netherlands and just below Singapore. ‘That’s quite a change in company,’ Porter said, adding that if China continues at this pace, it might surpass both Germany and the United Kingdom in the near future.

China has also increased dramatically on an average of four ‘input indicators’ the study uses to predict future exports. They are National Orientation (NO), a country’s commitment to pursuing technology development; Socioeconomic Infrastructure (SI), which is the strength of a country’s educational systems, capital mobility and foreign investment; Technological Infrastructure (TI); and Productive Capacity (PC).

Since 1999, China has made particular strides in the last two categories, increasing 8.6 points on PC and 8.7 points on TI, representing the largest increases of the 33 counties in the study. ‘These changes suggest continued strength for China,’ said Porter, noting that PC and TI are most closely linked to future technological standing.

China’s progress stems partially from the number of companies that are establishing manufacturing facilities in China, reported Liu Zuoyi, an officer with the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

The reform of economic institutions has also benefited China’s technology exports. ‘Especially with becoming a member of WTO, the investing environment has improved greatly,’ Liu said. Human capital is a third factor, he adds: ‘Most Chinese engineers are able to grasp the skills of design and manufacturing after a short time’s training.’

In addition to China’s progress, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan continue to advance in technology exports. ‘People have recognised that these countries are a force to contend with, but may not realise exactly how strong they have become,’ Porter said.

Since 1993, Singapore has advanced 16.6 points on the TS scale, moving from 35.8 to 52.4. That puts Singapore in fifth place on this measurement, behind the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The Georgia Tech study can be found on the Web <A HREF=’http://tpac.gatech.edu’>Here</A>