November 06, 2017

Emerging technology could make China the world’s next innovation superpower

By Elsa B. Kania

During China’s 19th Party Congress in October, President Xi Jinping placed innovation at the center of China’s national strategy. His remarks called for building China into a “science and technology superpower,” particularly as an “aerospace superpower” and “cyber superpower.” He highlighted notable achievements, including Mozi, the world’s first quantum satellite, and China’s space lab, Tiangong.

His remarks underscored that, under his leadership, China has pursued a strategy of innovation-driven development and sought to leverage the potential of the internet, big data and artificial intelligence (AI). If successful, China’s emergence as a leading power in innovation could shift the strategic balance.

Xi Jinping has recognized that innovation is a critical determinant of national power and competitiveness. This techno-nationalism is not new, but rather there is a long history of China’s pursuit of indigenous innovation. The “Two Bombs, One Satellite” project of the 1960s and ‘70s, through which China built its first atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and satellites — at a time when such achievements seemed well beyond its reach — remains a resonant historical example of successful “moonshot” projects that enhanced national power. Today, China is devoting itself to a similarly ambitious agenda through a series of mega-projects, including in artificial intelligence and quantum information science, while avidly pursuing advances in such strategic emerging technologies as nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Read the full op-ed in The Hill.

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