A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) highlights China’s dominance in the global race for scientific and research breakthroughs. The report reveals that China is leading the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies, while Western democracies lag behind.
This position has put China in a strong position to become the world’s top technology superpower, with its dominance spanning various industries, including defense, space, robotics, energy, biotechnology, AI, advanced materials, and quantum technology.
ASPI’s Critical Technology Tracker highlights the key areas in which China dominates, including drones, machine learning, electric batteries, nuclear energy, photovoltaics, quantum sensors, and critical minerals extraction. In some fields, China’s dominance is so entrenched that all of the world’s top 10 leading research institutions are located in the country.
In comparison, the US leads in just seven critical technologies, including space launch systems and quantum computing. The UK and India rank among the top five countries in 29 of the 44 technologies, while South Korea and Germany make the top five in 20 and 17 technologies, respectively.
ASPI believes China’s growing prowess in critical technologies, which the think tank credits to long-term policy planning, should be a “wake-up call for democratic nations.” If unchecked, this could shift not only technological development and control but also global power and influence to an authoritarian state where the development, testing, and application of emerging, critical, and military technologies aren’t open and transparent.
ASPI has laid out 23 recommendations for Western countries and their partners and allies to address this issue. These include establishing sovereign wealth funds for research and development (R&D), facilitating technology visas, “friend-shoring” and R&D grants between nations, and pursuing new public-private partnerships.
The competition between the US and China for power and influence has led to moves to decouple their economies. The US has rolled out export controls and tax incentives aimed at hobbling China’s tech industry and restoring domestic manufacturing.
On Thursday, the US Department of Commerce added units of China’s genetics company BGI and cloud computing firm Inspur to a trade blacklist for allegedly supporting the Chinese military and facilitating government surveillance.
The report from ASPI serves as a reminder that China is a formidable player in the global technology industry, and Western democracies need to act quickly to catch up. Failure to do so could have serious implications for global power and influence in the future.
“It’s time for democratic nations to come together to shape a new economic and strategic reality that reflects the shared values and interests of their citizens, promotes technological progress and innovation, and puts the world on a sustainable and prosperous path,” ASPI stated.