According to a security think tank that tracks defense, space, energy, and biotechnology, China has a “stunning lead” in 37 of 44 critical and emerging technologies, as Western democracies lose the global competition for research output.
According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), all of the world’s top ten research institutions are based in China in some fields.
The study, funded by the US State Department, discovered that the US was frequently ranked second, despite leading global research in high-performance computing, quantum computing, small satellites, and vaccines.
“Western democracies are losing the global technological competition, including the race for scientific and research breakthroughs,” the report stated, urging governments to invest more in research.
China had established a “stunning lead in high-impact research” through government initiatives.
The report called for democratic nations to collaborate more often to create secure supply chains and “rapidly pursue a strategic critical technology step-up”.
According to ASPI, the most-cited scientific papers are the ones that are most likely to result in patents. According to the report, China’s surprise breakthrough in hypersonic missiles in 2021 would have been detected earlier if China’s strong research had been detected.
“Over the last five years, China produced 48.49% of the world’s high-impact research papers on advanced aircraft engines, including hypersonic, and it is home to seven of the world’s top ten research institutions,” the report stated.
According to the report, China’s research strength in photonic sensors and quantum communication could result in it “going dark” to western intelligence surveillance, including the “Five Eyes” of Britain, the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
National researcher talent flows were also tracked, and monopoly risks were identified.
China was expected to gain a monopoly in ten fields, including synthetic biology, where it produces one-third of all research, electric batteries, 5G, and nanomanufacturing.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a government research organization, came in first or second place in the majority of the 44 technologies studied, which included defense, space, robotics, energy, the environment, biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), advanced materials, and quantum technology.
According to the data, one-fifth of the top Chinese researchers were trained in a Five Eyes country, and China was bolstering its research with knowledge gained abroad.
The study advocated for visa screening programmes to prevent illegal technology transfers and instead encourage international collaboration with security allies.
Universities in Australia have stated that they are complying with foreign influence laws designed to prevent the illegal transfer of technology to China, but they have also stated that international collaboration is an important part of university research.