Beijing has strength to catch up with US lead

The national flags of the United States and China fluttering outside a building.

Teh Eng Koon | AFP via Getty Images

U.S. may lead in some areas of tech race with China – but experts warn of the world’s largest laurel economy, urging instead allied cooperation and change domestic policy.

Along with the evolution of the U.S.-China trade war, the two sides are involved in growing competition to dominate various areas of next-generation technology, such as 5G networks and artificial intelligence (AI). ).

5G refers to the latest mobile networking technology that promises super-fast download speeds and the ability to support critical infrastructure. This is one of the reasons why it is considered a crucial technology for both countries.

Over the past few years, Beijing has presented a number of plans which it hopes will make China a world leader in various technology fields:

American-Chinese competition is essentially about who controls the global IT infrastructure and standards.

Frank Rose

senior security and strategy researcher at the Brookings Institution

The blueprint for Chinese standards 2035 is essentially the technical specifications and rules that define the number of technologies used daily, such as mobile networks, that work. Being able to influence what they look like could have far-reaching implications for Beijing’s power in various technological fields around the world.

“American-Chinese competition is essentially about who controls the global IT infrastructure and standards,” said Frank Rose, senior fellow for security and strategy in the Foreign Policy program at The Brookings Institution, during a webinar earlier this month.

US leader in A.I. competitiveness

A recent Citi report that studied the competitiveness of AI in 48 economies found that the United States still leads. The other 47 economies included in the index would face “serious difficulties in catching up with the US AI industry in 2020-30,” the report said.

This has been attributed to the strength of the United States, particularly in patents on AI, investment and university research. Citi said the ranking was not a surprise, given that the major software companies are headquartered in the United States.

The ranking was calculated by weighing five factors, namely: university research, patents, investment, work and equipment in the field of artificial intelligence.

However, the report also found that only China, ranked second behind the United States in the index, is likely to “cultivate a strong and independent ecosystem for the AI ​​industry for both economic and geopolitics “.

No rest on the laurels

China is expected to further catch up in two areas, jet engines and semiconductors, according to Michael Brown, director of the defense innovation unit at the US Department of Defense.

“So they’re not (in China) quite there yet, but I think we can’t rest on our laurels,” he said during the Brookings Institution’s webinar. “I think they can compete very well, and that’s what worries me a lot, if we don’t wake up and see what we have to do to participate.”

Even though many countries have invested in efforts to boost their domestic biotech sector, China is “the only one whose size could potentially … pose a threat to US pre-eminence” in biotechnology, said Scott Moore, director of Penn Global China Program. at the University of Pennsylvania, during the same webinar.

China’s political goal is that biotechnology will account for about 4% of China’s GDP by 2020, and by comparison, biotechnology will account for about 2% of US GDP, said Moore.

“Superpower marathon”

Experts have pointed out that the United States could exploit alliances with other countries and redirect domestic policy to increase competitiveness.

“The United States and its allies account for almost two-thirds of global R&D and there are extraordinary ways that we can try to take advantage of this research and development pool and coordinate on common priorities,” said Andrew Imbria, principal investigator at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology. at Georgetown University during the webinar.

Investing in research undertaken by government and academia is a “proven strategy” from the Cold War era that can be used again in this current situation, said Brown. However, “the most important and difficult strategy” would imply “the need to reform our business thinking and our capital markets, to move away from short-term thinking and move more towards the long term”, a he explained.

He highlighted the short-term thinking that is ingrained in the business world in the United States. – a result, he said, of measures including a focus on quarterly profits, increased short-term share prices and shorter periods for holding stocks.

On the other hand, China is taking a very long-term view and sees technology and innovation as essential to the development of national capabilities as part of its overall national strategy, he said.

Short-term thinking is not the right approach if the United States is preparing for a “superpower marathon” with China, said Brown. “We have to reform this or we will not be able to compete with China.”

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