China unveils plan to overtake US in tech in 5 years

The Chinese Communist Party has just unveiled a five-year plan to overtake the United States in tech. The country will invest massively in education and research, particularly in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, biotechnologies, semiconductors and quantum computing.

Shanghai skyline
The skyline of Shanghai, one of China’s tech capitals / Credits: Unsplash

The trade war that began in the Trump era is obviously pushing China to strengthen its technological arsenal. The sanctions chosen by the United States have highlighted the deep dependence of Chinese manufacturers on many American technologies and equipment – especially in key areas such as semiconductors.

The spectacle of Huawei’s vertiginous fall in smartphones is an illustration of this. Rarely in contemporary history has an economic clash between two powers gone so far to crucify a business. Huawei’s ambitions in 5G, and in smartphones, are largely thwarted internationally – amid suspicion of espionage for 5G technologies and private smartphones from the Play Store and Google apps.

China to boost basic research investments in key areas

In this context, we understand that the Chinese government, and the country’s companies, can no longer afford to fall into the same pitfalls. And the only solution appears to deeply strengthen the research and education sector, as well as to seize emerging technologies as they appear. These questions were at the heart of the annual meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

Our colleagues from the Wall Street Journal explain that a new five-year plan in favor of “national security and development” was presented there. A plan that responds to recent challenges through the ambition of become a leader in as many future areas as possible, especially semiconductors, where the number of American intellectual property is still overwhelming. artificial intelligence, quantum computing and biotechnology.

China also relies on other fields such as neurosciences, aerospace, vaccines and seabed exploration. Research will henceforth have the right to a ten-year plan to define its strategy according to the context. Investments in basic research – the one that costs the most, but brings out the best innovations – climbs by 10.6% in 2021. Overall, the CCP will boost research and development spending by 7% per year by 2025.

The level of investment remains almost four times higher in the United States

China matters create national laboratories and strengthen university programs to promote the emergence of these technologies. China already has considerable academic influence. Recently, for example, the country has passed the United States in terms of the number of papers cited in artificial intelligence. China is also very advanced in technologies such as autonomous taxis (hundreds are already available in some cities like Canton), or the 5G deployment (more than 690,000 sites are active in the country).

For its part, Joe Biden’s United States is maintaining pressure on China, and seeking to push their allies to invest massively to keep a technological lead on the country. But the United States could go further and respond to China’s new five-year plan with its own plan – with an additional investment of up to $ 100 billion over five years to boost basic research in Artificial Intelligence, high-tech computing. performance and advanced manufacturing techniques.

Everything thus indicates that “The two countries are fighting to develop the same technological strengths”, as Tommy Xie, an economist at Singapore-based OCDC Bank, notes. Only for now investments remain much higher in the United States. For example, as the Wall Street Journal reminds us, China spent only $ 23 billion on basic research last year against around $ 100 billion for the United States.

Also read: China places first 6G satellite in orbit

Even with the new plan, investments are expected to remain nearly four times lower than in the United States. Still, investments are not everything, and China has already demonstrated its ability to innovate. The next few years therefore promise a certain continuity in the confrontation between China and the United States, but with a shift from the economy to the university field. It remains to be seen whether the winner of this curious showdown will ultimately really be one of these superpowers, or, more certainly, the technologies they have chosen to stimulate.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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