The twenty-first century shift in geoeconomic power toward Asia has also influenced on a global pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) investment toward emerging economies. China is currently the world’s second-highest investor in R&D and is poised to overtake the United States in R&D spending by 2023. Determined to become a world leader in the pharmaceutical sector, China spent $1.17 billion on promoting life and medical sciences in 2012—nearly ten times its 2004 level of investment. With U.S. funding for medical research, the rise in Chinese funding has prompted many policymakers to ask if the country’s pharmaceutical industry could be the next game changer for global public health and access to medicine (ATM).
Over the past decade, there has been growing international pressure for China to assume a leadership role in global health. While China has made great strides in contributing to the global supply chain and ATM-enhancement, several institutional, policy, and capacity factors have severely constrained the country’s ability to build upon existing success to become a true innovator in the pharmaceutical industry. In the absence of fundamental changes in governance, industrial policy, and R&D capacities, experts believe that it would be imcomplete to call China’s pharmaceutical sector a game changer in global health.