The US-China story is the ultimate tortoise-hare analogy. Most Americans now can’t believe that China is quite advanced, because they never noticed China’s individual accomplishments. In the American mind, China is just a poor country that is only capable of making t-shirts for Walmart. So, while America kept deluding itself with slogans of “We are the greatest,” China kept conquering one milestone after another.
Here are some of the recent pivotal achievements of China that, when stringed together, undoubtedly demonstrates the staggering and relentless progress:
1996: #1 in steel production (overtook Japan and USA). Now China produces 10x as much steel as the US.
2004: #1 in Bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering (overtook EU)
2009: #1 in exports (overtook Germany)
2009: #1 auto market (overtook USA)
2010: #2 in nominal GDP (overtook Japan)
2012: #2 in hi-tech manufacturing (overtook EU)
2012: #1 in medium-hi-tech manufacturing (overtook EU)
2012: #1 trading country (overtook the US)
2012: #2 in Fortune 500 companies (overtook Japan)
2013: #1 in fastest supercomputer in the world (overtook USA)
2013: #1 market for industrial robots (overtook Japan)
2013: #1 in outbound international tourism (overtook USA)
2014: #1 in PPP GDP (overtook USA)
2014: #2 in stock market (overtook Japan)
2015: #2 in R&D spending (overtook EU). Will be #1 by 2020.
2015: #1 in middle-class population (overtook USA)
2015: Top 3 out of 5 smartphones in the world are Chinese brands (link)
2015: #1 in electric cars (battery + hybrid) (overtook USA). China went from 10,000 EV cars in 2012 to more than 1,000,000 by 2018. That’s a 100x growth in just six years!
2016: #1 in scientific papers published (overtook USA)
2016: #1 in fastest supercomputer in the world (again) and, this time, it was built without any US semiconductor chips (overtook the US)
2017: #1 in university for both engineering and computer science (overtook USA)
2017: #2 in international patents (overtook Japan)
2017: #1 in telecom infrastructure (Huawei overtakes Ericsson and Nokia)
2017: China enters the Top 5 list for US patents for the first time (link)
2018: #1 in 5G patents — China owns more than one third of all core essential 5G patents (link); #1 to make a 5G phone call (link); Huawei overtakes Apple as the #2 smartphone vendor (link); and 4 out of the Top 6 brands in the world are Chinese; Chinese brands conquer more than 60% of the smartphone market in India and Africa, the two fastest growing and largest markets in the world (link, link).
2018: #1 in Venture Capital (VC) funding in the world — although it was only for the first half of 2018, it is still an astonishing achievement, considering that ten years ago, there was virtually no VC funding in China. (overtook USA)
2019: #1 in flat panel display (overtakes South Korea). China also becomes the only country other than the US to mass produce its own CPU (link). Another Chinese company starts mass production of locally designed DRAM — computer memory (link)
2019: Almost #1 in the number of corporations in Global Fortune 500. US has 121 and China has 119. (If you include the 10 from Taiwan as China, then the US is #2)
2019: China’s BeiDou becomes #1 in satellite positioning system, with 35 satellites (overtook USA)
Thus, methodically, China keeps advancing one step at a time, mastering one technology at a time, conquering one market share at a time and excelling in one field at a time. It’s all about planning, focus and execution.