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China Outpaces U.S. in Research on Critical Energy, Defense Technology, Report Finds

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation

China outpaces the U.S. in high quality research across a variety of critical sectors, including sensitive defense technology, according to a Thursday report.

Beijing’s investment in research on defense and energy technologies, advanced materials and other sectors has made it the world’s leading developer in those sectors and positions it to achieve significant breakthroughs in the future, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) Critical Technology Tracker. Of the 44 total, China leads in 37, while the U.S. is ahead in the remaining seven.

China’s government-driven research programs have produced a “stunning lead in high-impact research,” the accompanying report found.

“In the long term, China’s leading research position means that it has set itself up to excel not just in current technological development in almost all sectors, but in future technologies that don’t yet exist,” ASPI wrote.

Beijing took the greatest lead in defense and space-related technologies, dominating the field of advanced aircraft engines in particular.

Chinese researchers produced nearly half of the high quality research papers — 48.5% — on advanced aircraft engines, to include hypersonics, ASPI found. Seven of the world’s top ten research institutions focused on the study area are located in China, and the Chinese government’s Academy of Sciences dominated research across the board.

China surprised the U.S. in 2021 with a hypersonic missile test demonstrating capabilities beyond those of the U.S. at the time. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley called the incident a “near-Sputnik moment.”

China’s policy of “military-civil fusion,” wherein it exploits the efforts of private companies, supports the People’s Liberation Army’s goal “develop the most technologically advanced military in the world,” according to the State Department.

ASPI warned that such surprises could be avoided had Western nations picked up on Chinese interest in defense and technology research sooner. In addition, more Chinese nationals at research institutions abroad, especially in the U.S. and its top allies in intelligence, are returning home to contribute to China’s cutting-edge research.

Should the West fall farther behind China in these sectors, it would “allow China to gain a stranglehold on the global supply of certain critical technologies,” ASPI wrote.

“Such risks are exacerbated because of the willingness of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to use coercive techniques outside of the global rules-based order to punish governments and businesses, including withholding the supply of critical technologies,” the think tank continued.

The Biden administration has presented the U.S. relationship with China as one of competition, not conflict, amid pressure from Congress to crack down on Chinese espionage and U.S. dependence on Chinese manufacturing, as recently highlighted in the first hearing of the House Select Committee on the CCP Tuesday.

Witnesses testified to China’s attempt to gain economic and military dominance and its campaign to pilfer resources and knowledge from the West to then deploy its adversaries.

ASPI is partially funded by the U.S. State Department, according to Reuters.

The National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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