Investing in Education: China vs. the United States

China is making HUGE investments in education. In 1998, then-President Jiang Zemin called for a massive increase in enrollment in higher education. Since then, high school and college enrollments in China grew. Source: FP-Foreign Policy, April 14, 2010

For example: China’s enlarged enrollment to higher education started in 1999, which boasted China’s shift in higher education from elite higher education to mass higher education. The enrollment to colleges/universities increased by 42 percent, compared to the year of 1998. Source: All

Then in March 2013, Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China’s expenditures on education had reached 4% of GDP in 2012, a goal set almost twenty years earlier. “Government spending on education totaled 7.79 trillion yuan over the past five years, increasing at an average annual rate of 21.58 percent to reach 4 percent of the GDP in 2012,” Wen said in his annual work report delivered to deputies to the top legislature. (7.79 trillion yuan is equal to $1.25 trillion). Source: China Daily

For example, during the 1967-1985 period, total government expenditure on education averaged 2% of GNP, and 7.7% of the total national budget. Source:

One result: The overall literacy rate has gone from 20% in 1950 to 92.2% of the total population today.

Compared to China, in the United States, education spending peaked in 1976 at 5.9% of GDP before dropping to flat line at about 5.5% annually.

In China, more than thirty percent graduate with degrees in engineering or technology. But in the United States, only five percent of university students graduate in these fields, while U.S. universities produce more psychologists.

That is why President Obama has encouraged American students to study science. Source: White House

What’s going to happen if America’s students do not start working hard to become engineers and scientists?

In 2040, the Chinese economy will reach $123 trillion, or nearly three times the economic output of the entire globe in 2000.  It’s a fact that people with an education in engineering and science earn more and are more productive.  China and India combined are turning out more than 600,000 engineers a year—ten times that of the United States. Source: Rocketry Planet

Discover China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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2 Responses to Investing in Education: China vs. the United States

  1. Teepee12 says:

    Pity we aren’t doing the same. We seem to have forgotten that education is the key to pretty much everything. We used to know that.

    • True. But China has a long way to go. They are currently in the process of retraining their teachers to modern Western educational methods and that is a big job with the size of China’s public education system—for example, China has about 832,300 primary schools.

      Shanghai is the city that implemented the changes first and that led to China being number one in all categories in the 2009 PISA tests for 15-year-old students selected at random to test in only that city. Those students outscored 15-year-olds in Finland and Singapore.

      China is also running into a shortage of qualified teachers in second tier cities and in rural areas.

      It may take a decade or two to achieve this long term goal of reinventing education in China. And to think in 1976 when Mao died, only 20% of the population was literate and the educational system had been destroyed by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. After Mao died, Deng Xiaoping, who did not agree with Mao’s brutal policies, opened China to the world and started to rebuild the country’s education system from square one.

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