Knowledge Pack

Why U.S. tech needs to fear China

China’s focusing on everything from supercomputers and chips to R&D and science education. In the U.S., budget cuts prevail. Here's what you need to know.

Global economic technology prospects: China and the United States of America

China’s push to take over global technology leadership is relentless. It wants to lead in computing, semiconductors, research and development, and clean energy. It is accelerating science investment as the U.S. retreats.

Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are warning that China is "extremely likely" to take leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020, unless the U.S. acts quickly to increase spending.

China's supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also U.S. leadership in high-tech manufacturing. If China succeeds, it may "undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy," according to a report titled U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

"To maintain U.S. leadership in HPC," the report says, "a surge" of U.S. "investment and action is needed to address HPC priorities."

 In 2010, Computerworld looked at “Five reasons why China will rule tech.” Here's an update, and the case for China has grown stronger.

Meanwhile, U.S. scientists -- including those at the National Security Agency -- believe China will soon lead the world in supercomputing.

“National security requires the best computing available, and loss of leadership in high performance computing (HPC) will severely compromise our national security,” wrote NSA and Energy Department scientists in a recent report.

To help boost its industry, the report claimed that the Chinese government subsidizes semiconductor production, which can lower product cost and threaten direct competitors. It also “places conditions on access to its market” to drive domestic production and “technology transfer” -- requiring foreign firms -- if they want access to China’s market -- to share their technology. Theft is another means of acquiring technology, the report says.

For all its investment and advances, China is at least one and a half generations behind state-of- the-art semiconductors, according to a White House report released in January by President Barack Obama, just days before Trump took office. It was written with industry cooperation.

Concern about China's technical advances have been raised before by U.S. scientists and industry groups, but never in such striking terms -- or by representatives of a spy agency.

To learn more about why China has a good chance of beating the U.S. in different areas of tech, download the free PDF below.

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