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China’s Scientific Revolution

China's economy has undergone radical transformation in recent years, and it is now at a new threshold where it can support world-class research in science and technology. As Chinese consumers continue to demand more medical treatments, China will play an increasingly central role in the life-sciences research of the future.

BEIJING – The Chinese economy has undergone radical transformation in recent years and is now laying the groundwork for impressive advances in science and technology. In particular, China is setting itself up to be a major player in the fight against disease, and there are many reasons to believe that the country will play a central role in the life-sciences research of the future.

For starters, according to a report in McKinsey Quarterly, China spends more than $200 billion on research annually, a level of investment that is second only to the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping has positioned science-based innovation near the top of the national agenda, with the government’s 13th Five-Year Plan prioritizing complex projects in emerging fields like brain research, gene science, big data, and medical robotics.

China is devoting so much to medical research in part because the country has significant unmet medical needs. By 2050, the Chinese population over age 65 is expected to increase by about 190 million. Meanwhile, chronic illnesses now account for more than 80% of China’s disease burden. So it is no surprise that China is already the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market, or that its innovation expenditure, according to the McKinsey Quarterly report, is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020.