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This year has been an eventful one for science in China. Not only did the country send a person into orbit for the first time, but it was also the origin of an outbreak of a new respiratory disease that made headlines worldwide.

In this article, David Cyranoski looks back on the success and failures of 2003 for China’s scientific community. He reports that China is now ranked third in the global league table of spending on research and development, behind only the United States and Japan. And in activities such as field trials of transgenic crops, China is already established as a world leader.

But meanwhile, China’s burgeoning research purse is not matched by a corresponding development of structures to ensure that funds are distributed by merit, or that ongoing projects are properly evaluated. And many argue that China’s confused and secretive reaction to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is symptomatic of a wider failure to tackle public health issues such as hepatitis B and AIDS.

Link to full article in Nature

Reference: Nature 426, 752 (2003)