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The Challenge of China as a Science and Technology Superpower

Author: Adam Segal, Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program
October 11, 2013
The Guardian


The United States-China science and technology relationship is shaped by a central paradox. Reducing climate change, preventing pandemics, and developing new energy sources are all challenges that require global solutions. Moreover, the science that will be the foundation of any technological fixes is increasingly collaborative, spanning different disciplines, institutions, and geographical locations. At the same time, science and technology are an essential component of national economic competitiveness and military power.

As a result, China and the US are collaborators as well as competitors for talent, new ideas, market share and prestige. Managing this paradox requires the US to maintain scientific strength at home and deepen ties to emerging science powers, while simultaneously pressuring China on its mercantilist technology policies and cyber espionage.

The US is still the world leader in science and technology, but as a new Nesta report and others have noted, Chinese capabilities are developing rapidly. China is on track to pass the US in terms of spending onresearch and development (R&D) in 10 years, and the share of scientific papers published by Chinese scientists in journals included in the prestigious Science Citation Index rose to 9.5% in 2011. China now boasts of a manned space programme and the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tian-he 2.

The Boston Consulting Group has named e-commerce firms Alibaba and Xiaomi Technology, a maker of mobile phone technology, as among the most innovative up-and-coming companies.

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