Passing the food and agricultural R&D buck? The United States and China

Yuan Chai, Philip G Pardey, Connie Chan-Kang, Jikun Huang, Kyuseon Lee, Wanlu Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The global geographical balance of food and agricultural R&D spending is shifting, characterized by a declining U.S. share and a rising middle-income-country share, propelled heavily by the rapid rise of spending in China. Based on our newly compiled data, we estimate that China now outspends the United States on both public and private food and agricultural research on a purchasing power parity basis. The public-private orientation of the research has also changed markedly, with the private sector now accounting for around two-thirds of the food and agricultural R&D spending total in both China and the United States. Our estimates indicate that China's private sector tilts heavily towards post-farm R&D activities, whereas the U.S. private sector is split more evenly between on-farm and post-farm spending. While the intensity of Chinese investment in food and agricultural R&D (relative to agricultural GDP) is beginning to grow, it still lags well behind the food and agricultural R&D investment intensities of the United States and other higher-income Asian countries (e.g., Japan and South Korea). The development regularities we reveal in the longer-run trends are indicative of future R&D investment patterns with potentially profound long-run implications for the size, shape and accessibility of the global stocks of scientific knowledge that underpin food and agricultural sectors worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101729
JournalFood Policy
StatePublished - Jul 2019



  • Agriculture
  • Food
  • Private spending
  • Public spending
  • Research and development (R&D)

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