China has a “stunning lead” ahead of the US in high-impact research across critical and emerging technologies, according to Canberra-based independent think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, or ASPI.
China leads the US in the research of 37 out of 44 key technologies tracked by an Australian think tank.
These critical and emerging technologies span a range of sectors including defense, space, and energy.
China’s research lead in these sectors could have implications for democratic nations.
The world’s second-largest economy is leading the US in researching 37 out of 44 critical and emerging technologies across the defense, space, energy, and biotechnology sectors — including research of advanced aircraft engines, drones, and electric batteries — the ASPI said in its Thursday report. The US State Department partly funded the study.
The ASPI found that for a few fields, all of the world’s top 10 research institutions are in China, and they collectively generate nine times more high-impact research papers than the second-ranked country — which is the US in many cases. In particular, China has the edge in defense and space-related technologies, the ASPI said.
“Western democracies are losing the global technological competition, including the race for scientific and research breakthroughs,” the report, led by the institute’s senior analyst Jamie Gaida, said.
The ASPI said China’s lead is the product of “deliberate design and long-term policy planning” by President Xi Jinping’s administration and those who came before him.
The report’s authors warned that China’s research dominance in strategic sectors could have adverse implications for democratic nations.
In the immediate term, the lead could allow China to “gain a stranglehold on the global supply of certain critical technologies.” In the longer run, China’s leading position could propel it to excel in almost all sectors, including technologies that don’t exist yet, per the ASPI.
“Unchecked, this could shift not just technological development and control but global power and influence to an authoritarian state where the development, testing and application of emerging, critical and military technologies isn’t open and transparent and where it can’t be scrutinized by independent civil society and media,” the think-tank said.
The ASPI urges governments around the world to collaborate and invest more in research to catch up to China. It also recommended measures such as visa screening for visitors to research facilities to limit “illegal technology transfers” to China and said governments should consider “narrow limits” on the movements of researchers who are experts in strategic sectors.
“Recruiting personnel to lead research programs in, for example, defense-relevant technologies in adversarial states poses a clear threat to a country’s national security,” said the ASPI. It added that serious national-security risks need to be identified before movement restrictions are implemented as they need to be weighed against a person’s right to freedom of movement.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a scheduled press conference on Friday that her country’s scientific and technological progress contribute to global technological advancement. “We oppose hegemonism in science, decoupling, and breaking of industrial and supply chains,” said Mao, according to an official transcript. “Politicizing scientific and technological issues, using them as weapons for ideological confrontation and patching up coteries harm the interests of the whole world.”