China Leads the US in 85% of Research in Critical, Emerging Technologies

  • China leads the US in research in 37 of 44 key technologies tracked by an Australian think tank.
  • These critical and emerging technologies cover a variety of sectors including defense, space, and energy.
  • China’s research lead in these sectors may have implications for democratic countries.

China has a “tremendous lead” over the US in high-impact research into critical and emerging technologies, according to the Canberra-based independent think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, or ASPI.

The world’s second-largest economy leads the US in research on 37 of 44 critical and emerging technologies across the defense, space, energy, and biotechnology sectors – including research into advanced aircraft engines, drones , and electric batteries – the ASPI said in its Thursday report. The US State Department partially funded the study.

ASPI found that for some fields, all of the world’s top 10 research institutions are in China, and they collectively produce nine times more high-impact research papers than the second-ranked country – which is the US in many cases. In particular, China has an edge in defense and space-related technologies, ASPI said.

“Western democracies are losing out in the global technological competition, including the race for breakthroughs in science and research,” the report, led by the institute’s senior analyst Jamie Gaida, said.

ASPI says China’s lead is the product of “deliberate design and long-term policy planning” by the administration of President Xi Jinping and his predecessors.

The report’s authors warned that China’s research dominance in strategic sectors could have negative implications for democratic countries.

In the immediate term, the lead could allow China to “gain a stranglehold on the global supply of some critical technologies.” In the long run, China’s leading position may push it to succeed in almost all sectors, including technologies that do not yet exist, according to ASPI.

“Unchecked, it could transfer not only technological development and control but global power and influence to an authoritarian state where the development, testing and application of developing, critical and military technologies are not open and transparent and where they are not scrutinized by independent civil society and media,” the think-tank said.

ASPI encourages governments around the world to work together and invest more in research to reach 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.

“The recruitment of personnel to lead research programs in, for example, defense-related technologies of hostile states poses a clear threat to the national security of a country,” said the ASPI. It added that serious risks to national security must be identified before movement restrictions are implemented as they must be weighed against a person’s right to freedom of movement.

The Chinese embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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