Saturday, July 05, 2008

Keep your eye on China

China's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is growing 11% per year compared to 2.2% in the U.S. pushing that nation to strategically invest in Research & Development (R&D) and to invest in natural resources around the world. China is currently behind the U.S. in percentage spent on R&D, compared to the U.S. 2.5 - 3% of GDP, but they are catching up.

Those numbers and conclusions are from Gene Whitney, the only geologist in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Gene spoke to the state geologist's annual meeting in West Virginia last week, on the general topic of U.S. science spending in the global arena. He told us that the U.S. government and industry spend about $353 billion annually on R&D, 1/3 of the world's total spending of $1.1 trillion. Interestingly, industry's share of domestic R&D surpassed the federal share in 1979-80 and now accounts for 65% of total R&D. Also interesting is that energy, minerals, water and other earth science related fields are not in the top 25 areas.

The impact of Gene's remarks were echoed by a talk by Jon Price of Nevada that described extensive Chinese investments in U.S. mines and minerals as one of many efforts by that nation to ensure they have the resources needed to sustain the growth of their economy. Vince Matthews of Colorado echoed Jon's talk with numerous additional examples.

One of the common topics in hallway conversations was about what the Chinese were buying in each state. I couldn't identify a specific Chinese investment in Arizona minerals, but noted that India-based Sterlite has the winning bid so far for Asarco. India often gets less attention than China but has its own global efforts to acquire control of strategic resources.

Jon Price anticipates increased economic competition with China and others. Gene Whitney noted that the U.S. has not had a global political rival for years now, comparable to the USSR in the Cold War or the Nazis in WWII. Those political struggles led to the Apollo and Manhattan projects respectively. These were not science projects per se, but benefited science tremendously. Gene urged us to keep an eye on China as an increasing competitor for global resources. That's what motivates politicians, and what could lead to increased expenditures for R&D.


  1. Your more recent post "test" - did not go through, but you probably know that. [Or are you just checking to see if we're still here?!]

  2. I am repeatedly surprised to hear from people who say they follow this blog regularly. And a number of other geo-bloggers and news sites carry links to Arizona Geology.

    Last night I was trying to post from home and had formatting problems so I tried a short test to track it down. I deleted it fairly quickly but it must have still sent out a notice to those readers who signed up for an RSS feed. Thanks to every one who follows this blog.