Scientific research, the Chinese miracle and Muslim development

International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management

ISSN: 1753-8394

Article publication date: 22 June 2010


Shubber, K. (2010), "Scientific research, the Chinese miracle and Muslim development", International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, Vol. 3 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Scientific research, the Chinese miracle and Muslim development

Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Finance and Management, Volume 3, Issue 2

Latest available information on the growth of scientific research in China should render food for thought for decision-makers in Muslim countries, particularly those occupying positions related to socio-economic development. It is no co-incidence that the most populous country on this planet has been recording the highest rates of growth in scientific research, while at the same time accomplishing spectacular yearly economic advances and amassing the world’s largest reserves of foreign currencies.

With its continued rapid economic progress, as well as huge trading surpluses, China has been able to accumulate foreign-currency reserves of some $2,400 billion, and the pace is still continuing. The Chinese role in buying up US Treasury bonds to plug the huge hole in the federal budget is well known. In addition, recent reports revealed that Beijing had been wooed by Greece to buy up to €25 billion of government bonds, so as to lift that European country out of its acute financial straits (Barber et al., 2010).

Clearly, major factors account for this Chinese miracle, including product quality, low labour costs, steady supplies of requisite basic commodities, effective management, and harnessing of conducive foreign relations.

Yet, a strategy for scientific research that is astutely designed, soundly targeted and well funded is a prime contributory factor. And, all this can equally be done by Muslim nations, either singly or acting co-operatively.

No doubt, the sheer enormity of the Chinese market has provided valuable scale-related benefits in research, manufacturing, training and other fields. However, some Muslim nations are quite populous and enjoy large markets, including Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt. Smaller Muslim countries have the option of joining others in collaborative research, particularly in areas where this is badly needed, such as agriculture, food-products, animal production, mining and others.

Highest rate of growth

Figures compiled by Thomson Reuters for the London-based Financial Times indicate that over the past three decades, China has experienced the strongest growth in scientific research in the world, and this continues undiminished (Cookson, 2010b).

This puts China’s current position in second place after the US, as a producer of scientific knowledge, while it is also set to overtake the US by 2020 if present trends continue (Cookson, 2010b).

Relying on indices of scientific papers published in 10,500 journals, the study shows that China far outperformed every other nation, with a 64-fold increase in peer-reviewed scientific papers since 1981. Another interesting phenomena is the collaborative nature of research, whereby almost 9 per cent of papers originating in China having at least one US-based co-author (Cookson, 2010b).

Underlying factors

Experts believe that some major factors account for the spectacular showing of Chinese science, prominent among which is huge state allocations of financial resources, transcending all levels of the economy. Then, there is the organised flow of knowledge from basic research to development and commercialisation.

Yet, a further and interesting channel has been China’s glittering success in utilising the know-how of Chinese experts and academics spread over the Diaspora, especially in North America and Western Europe, whereby an efficient and smoothly running system has been put in place to enable those working outside the homeland to spend a specified time each year inside China. Quite clearly, all these factors have made their impact in attaining the final outcomes, in terms of research output as well as economic and social advancement.

In contrast to China, Russia has fallen badly in the league table of scientific research. On the eve of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia was a scientific superpower, carrying out more research than China, India and Brazil combined (Cookson, 2010a). Since then, Russia has been left behind not merely by the enormous growth of Chinese science but also by India and Brazil (Cookson, 2010a).

The relative decline of Russian scientific output is clearly indicated by the fact that in 2008 the country produced fewer research papers than Brazil or India. Experts believe that the huge reduction in funding for research and development since 1990 has been a culprit, in addition to the migration of many of the rising stars of research (Cookson, 2010a).

All this raises important questions for political leaders in the Muslim world, as well as those in positions of influence within the fields of science, industry, education and socio-economic planning. As the saying goes, we need to run as fast as the next party in order to stand still; if we want to beat them, we have to run twice as fast.

Kadom Shubber


Barber, K., Oakley, D. and Hope, K. (2010), “Chinese whispers hit Greek bonds”, Financial Times, 28 January

Cookson, C. (2010a), “Big shifts in Bric’s scientific landscape”, Financial Times, 26 January

Cookson, C. (2010b), “China leads in growth of scientific research”, Financial Times, 26 January