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FutureStarrChina Leading US in Technology Race in All But a Few Fields - Thinktank Find
Recent report by a thinktank indicates China is ahead of the US in almost every technology race, save for a few. This is significant, as it could cost America trillions of dollars in economic growth if it fails to address Chinese technology threats.
This presents a serious issue, as China is rapidly developing and exporting technologies that enable surveillance and repression. To create effective alternatives, the US and its allies must work with like-minded partners to assist developing countries in building digital infrastructure, upholding international norms on data privacy and security, and more.
The electric car revolution has spurred major investments by automakers, who want to construct factories to manufacture batteries for an ever-increasing number of cars. Tesla Motors is building the Gigafactory in Texas and Nevada, while General Motors plans one in Ohio.
China enjoys a distinct edge in battery technology, especially when it comes to mining and refining refined materials like lithium and cobalt. The country boasts nearly all of the world's lithium processing capacity as well as cobalt refining capacity. This makes it possible for Chinese companies to produce advanced batteries which are much cheaper and safer than those made by US companies.
Battery production is becoming a key geopolitical battleground as more and more people switch to electric vehicles in China, who will increasingly depend on these new types of batteries as they expand their fleets.
Today's electric vehicles (EVs) use lithium-ion batteries, which require expensive minerals like lithium and cobalt. As demand continues to grow, Western producers will face difficulty keeping up with China and may face supply bottlenecks by 2025.
There's a new type of battery in development that utilizes two readily available and inexpensive materials: sodium and sulfur. These "solid state batteries" could be up to two-thirds cheaper than current lithium-ion chemistry.
These batteries may also be much more reliable. That's because the lithium iron phosphate cathodes used in these new batteries are much stronger than their nickel-cobalt-nickel counterparts, which are fragile and prone to fires.
Many start-ups in both America and Europe have invested millions of dollars and received government assistance to develop these new battery chemistries. These include Lyten and Conamix from the US, Theion in Germany, and Morrow from Norway.
These chemical processes, however, have drawbacks. Sodium ion cells cannot store enough energy while sulfur cells corrode rapidly and do not last a long time.
That is why researchers are working to discover ways to overcome these limitations. They're exploring different compounds with increased or decreased energy density, as well as finding ways to combine them more efficiently in combination. This could result in faster charging times, a longer life cycle and lower fire risks.
It has become evident that China is ahead of the United States in technology in all but a few fields. Hypersonic flight is one such example; Beijing and Russia are developing weapons capable of launching at tens of thousands of miles an hour, devastating aircraft carriers and other strategic targets alike.
As hypersonic weapon systems come from the lab, they will drastically disrupt conventional deterrence tactics. Furthermore, these weapons will have an immense influence on regional power balances.
A nuclear-armed hypersonic weapon, for instance, would be devastating to the United States' position as a leader in naval power and could drastically alter a country's relationship with its allies in the region. Furthermore, it would rob defenders of valuable time to launch counterattacks back at those responsible.
To match China and Russia's hypersonic capabilities, the US must increase its research and development (R&D) investment in this vital area. To do so, it will need to take a more deliberate and strategic approach to R&D that emphasizes learning from mistakes.
In particular, it must build on its current successes in hypersonic space by investing now in test range capacity both domestically and with key allies like Australia. Furthermore, it needs to capitalize on recent advancements made in high-performance computing modeling and simulation, as well as increasing use of these technologies for testing purposes.
Finally, it will need to create a more agile engineering and design function that can quickly develop and demonstrate hypersonic product concepts. To do this, more companies will need to embrace model-based definition and digital twins.
Companies that take a proactive approach to R&D can expect a shorter development cycle and improved efficiency, which could help them gain competitive edge in the hypersonic space. To do this, companies must have an in-depth knowledge of competitive differentiation within this space as well as be willing to invest in internal R&D efforts in order to stay ahead.
A report released by a thinktank has revealed that China has overtaken the US in all but a few fields. Over a 12-month project, they tracked 37 technologies such as electric batteries, hypersonics and advanced radio-frequency communications such as 5G.
According to the report, these technologies are revolutionizing industry and creating new jobs. But security concerns must also be taken into account.
Regarding 5G technology, China's government has always faced security risks of using backdoors to steal information or disrupt networks. Despite these potential dangers, China has continued to develop 5G networks and has no plans to scale back on global infrastructure supply for those networks.
China has followed suit with 5G deployments, adopting many of the same applications as the US, from remote medical services to autonomous transportation. But beyond what's already available, China is developing additional technologies that are still in their early stages of widespread adoption.
Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) are being increasingly utilized in more sophisticated ways that require high-speed, low latency 5G networks for optimal performance.
One of the most promising innovations for 5G is self-driving vehicles, which can navigate and transport themselves by analyzing data from cameras and other sensors. It is hoped that autonomous vehicles will reduce road traffic and pollution.
Other technology companies are working on similar initiatives for the future. South Korea's Samsung is creating a line of phones that can support 5G as well as other technologies, making it an attractive contender in this market compared to Apple, whose entire smartphone shipments include only 26% with 5G capability.
Nabila Popal, IDC Research Director, noted that while Samsung may have the edge in terms of device availability, Apple's position is weaken by not having products in as many countries as some of its rivals. This makes it harder for Apple to maintain its lead in this segment, according to Popal.
Other tech giants, such as Google and Amazon, are exploring 5G networks too. Amazon is looking to develop cloud services that would let users store and access their own content at any time. These innovations offer customers a way to personalize their experience and make their device more relevant to them.
AI has emerged as a major force in economic growth and national security. As this technology develops further, it could radically alter global norms and have an immense impact on political and economic outcomes - especially in emerging markets.
However, there are risks involved and the United States needs to be mindful of how AI may be employed in the future. Kashyap Kompella, CEO of RPA2AI, states: "The race between the United States and China over AI has the potential to be very dangerous."
Chinese firms are rapidly overtaking American firms in many aspects of this space. This is attributed to China's unique technological environment, its large market, and the government's strong support for AI research.
These factors create a powerful cycle for AI: Companies create products, attract users, collect data and use machine learning to refine them further. Then these improvements can be replicated and scaled up, enabling businesses to rapidly improve their AI-powered products - helping them close the gap with competitors faster.
It is essential to remember that the US still enjoys a major advantage in most of these areas, though it must work hard to maintain its lead. In the long run, American leadership in AI will be necessary for addressing planet-scale issues like climate change and other global problems.
The US and China are the two world leaders in AI research, yet they are competing for various reasons. Both are taking an open science approach to developing AI that encourages collaboration while simultaneously seeking to protect their intellectual property rights and generate revenue through patents.
However, these challenges will persist and could potentially impede further AI innovation by Chinese firms. Additionally, both countries face a range of political uncertainties like trade tensions, disputes over intellectual property rights, deglobalization movements, increased protectionism - the list goes on - which are all potential hindrances to progress.