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‘Wake-up call’: China takes stunning lead in race for tech domination



“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 scrutinised by independent civil society and media.”

The report challenges the claim, often made by US politicians, that China’s technological advances are driven mostly by the theft of American intellectual property.

For example, China generated 49 per cent of high-impact research papers into advanced aircraft engines – including hypersonics – over the past five years and is home to seven of the world’s top-10 research institutions in this topic.

The authors created their rankings by examining 2.2 million research papers relevant to the key critical technology fields and isolating the top 10 per cent of highly cited papers over the past five years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed the importance of investment in science and technology, making it a core development pillar of the Chinese Communist Party.

The US leads in seven of the 44 tracked technologies including quantum computing, vaccines and space launch systems and is second in most other categories.

China has become a world leader in developing hypersonic missiles. Credit:Getty

US President Joe Biden last year signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act, designed to help America compete with China by pouring $US280 billion ($415 billion) into research and development.

Australia ranks among the top five countries for nine technologies, performing strongly in cybersecurity, critical minerals extraction and processing, electric batteries, hydrogen and ammonia power, blockchains and 3D printing.

The report finds that 22 per cent of China’s high-impact authors completed their postgraduate training in a “Five Eyes” member country (the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

The authors call for democratic countries to seriously consider creating sovereign wealth funds of 0.5-0.7 per cent of gross national income to fund critical technology research. A significant portion of this funding should be reserved for “moonshot” projects that are high-risk and high-reward.

Democratic governments should also explore special technology visas and R&D grants between allies as well as restructuring the tax system to encourage growth in venture capital.

“We should expect the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] to continue to follow through on its strategic vision for science and technology,” the authors write.

“Developing a global lead in high-impact research will help support future technological and scientific advances and breakthroughs that will underpin everything from developments in green energy and biotechnology to new military and intelligence capabilities.”

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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