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)
2008: #1 in Internet users (overtook USA)
2009: #1 in goods exports (overtook Germany)
2009: #1 auto market (overtook USA)
2010: #2 in nominal GDP (overtook Japan)
2010: #1 in Ph.d graduates (overtook USA)
2011: #1 in electricity generation (overtook the US). Consider that in 1978, the US produced 10x as much electricity as China!
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)
2012: #1 in spending on luxury goods (overtook USA)
2012: #1 in patents (overtook the US)
2013: #1 in fastest supercomputer in the world (overtook USA)
2013: #1 in outbound international tourism (overtook USA)
2013: #1 in total exports (goods + services). Overtook the USA — watch the dramatic video below. China went from #15 in 1995 to #1 by 2013.
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!
2015: #1 in solar power (overtook Germany)
2016: #1 in published scientific papers in science and engineering (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)
2016: #1 in installation of industrial robots (surpassed Japan)
2016: #1 oil importer (surpasses the US)
2017: #1 in the best 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: #1 in diplomatic outposts such as embassies & consulates (overtook USA)
2019: China’s BeiDou becomes #1 in satellite positioning system, with 35 satellites (overtook USA)
2019: China becomes #1 in the number of people in the wealthiest Top 10% of global households (overtook USA). Now there are 100 million Chinese worth $110K or more.
2019: TikTok surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. to become the most downloaded app in both Android and IOS platforms.
2019: China becomes #1 in international patents (overtook USA)
2020: Huawei overtook Samsung as the #1 smartphone vendor in the world
2020: China beat the US in Global Fortune 500 companies by 124 to 121. Back in 1990 when the list was created, China had zero companies in the list!
2020: China is expected to become the world’s largest retail market, surpassing the US, which had held that title for 100+ years. Chinese retail sales will exceed $5 trillion in 2020.
2020: China surpasses the US to become the world’s largest movie theater market.
2020: Expected to surpass the US in R&D spending (in PPP terms)
2020: China surpassed the US to become EU’s largest trading partner — based on Jan-Jul stats (link)
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.