China's total investments in research and development (R&D) reached 1.76 trillion yuan (254.42 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017, which increased by 12.3 percent from a year earlier, according to a governmental gazette issued on Tuesday, the Securities Times reported.
The gazette, jointly issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Finance (MOST), shows that the intensity of China's R&D investments, which refers to the ratio of R&D investments to GDP, hit a record high of 2.13 percent last year, rising by 0.02 percentage point from 2016.
"China has been leading the world in terms of the growth in R&D investments," said Zhang Peng, senior statistician of the Department of Social Science and Technology, and Cultural Statistics of the NBS. "The intensity of its R&D investments has reached the level of a medium developed country."
According to Zhang, the gap between China's R&D investments and that of the U.S., which ranks 1st in the world by R&D investments, has been narrowing year by year. China's total spending on R&D accounted for around 40 percent of that of the U.S in 2013, but the proportion had increased to nearly 60 percent in 2017.
In addition, China has given more weight to fundamental research. Last year, the country spent 97.55 billion yuan (14.1 billion U.S. dollars) on it, a year-on-year increase of 18.5 percent, which was also the biggest annual increase over the past five years.
The gazette also shows that the Chinese government invested about 838.36 billion yuan (121.19 billion U.S. dollars) in science and technology last year, which was 8 percent higher than the previous year and made up 4.13 percent of the government's total fiscal expenditure in 2017. The proportion remained unchanged from 2016.
Nonetheless, according to Zhang, China still falls behind developed countries regarding the quality of R&D outputs. What's more, to turn itself into an innovation-oriented economy, China needs to ensure that the intensity of its R&D investments exceeds 2.5 percent.
"Over the next few years, China will encourage the whole society to invest more in R&D, especially in fundamental research," said Zhang.