In 1996, the first year of the analysis, the US published 292,513 papers - more 10 times China's 25,474.
By 2008, the US total had increased very slightly to 316,317 while China's had surged more than seven-fold to 184,080.
Previous estimates for the rate of expansion of Chinese science had suggested that China might overtake the US sometime after 2020.
That sounds concerning, but it should be pointed out that Chinese scientific publications are often of questionable quality. The BBC article correctly points this out, but fails to note just how bad some Chinese scientific papers actually are. As Nature News wrote previously, China's journals are "filled with incremental work, read by virtually no one and riddled with plagiarism." The problem was so pervasive that the Chinese government put forth plans to terminate weak journals.
Before Americans start to panic, it is crucial to remember that quantity does not trump quality.