The Grand Race For TechnoSecurity Leadership

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In the perilous race between the US and China for dominance in global technology wealth and security, the recent passage of the CHIPS and Science Act adds a powerful and much-needed tool to the US arsenal to enable the relaunch of aging technology security systems. often much bigger and more ambitious, last year launched a very ambitious long-term plan for science, technology and innovation. It is likely that the scale, speed, and cost of growing efforts by Washington and Beijing to strengthen their technical security institutions will far exceed that between the United States and the Soviet Union by the end of the 20th century. This is because the gap between the United States and China in terms of economic and human resources and technological capabilities is much smaller than between the United States and the Soviet Union.

No front line is drawn more clearly than in the field of technology security. At the heart of the Sino-US rivalry are two distinct models of industrial and technological innovation in defense: China's top-down state approach and the US market-driven bottom-up system. Which of them will ultimately win will depend on how capable, strong, and adept they are at facing the challenges of rapid and disruptive change. A general assessment of the two countries' technical security systems is needed, including their ability to innovate and deploy military capabilities.

Technical security systems in the United States and China are designed, configured, and function differently. The US technology security system is based on an ingrained anti-government ethic that emphasizes the limitations of government and a broad leadership role for the private sector, although the US government sometimes has strong influence in shaping the technology security ecosystem. . On the other hand, although pro-market forces have played an important role in China's economic development, its technical security system is largely static, with party-state-dominated ownership, control and management. Since the late 20th century, the Chinese party-state has maintained a focused innovation program designed to undermine the United States' ability to defend its interests in the Western Pacific and narrow the gap between the United States and China. defense technology in a broad sense. In fact, China is acquiring new weapons five times faster than the United States, according to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Air Force Acquisition. As a result, the United States now faces a series of increasingly unfavorable military balances in the Western Pacific and beyond. To gain momentum in its rivalry with China, the United States must unleash the full power of its unique approach to defense innovation by strengthening public-private partnerships and intensifying engagement with allies.

Since the 1990s, China has made concerted efforts to transform itself from a struggling technology loser to a world-leading innovator. Defense innovation is at the forefront of Beijing's efforts, and China has made impressive progress in terms of speed, scale and product quality. When reforms began in the mid-to-late 1990s, China's science, technology, and defense innovation systems regressed and could only produce obsolete foreign-made weapons. In the second half of 2010, the incubator of individual excellence in defense innovation systems began producing advanced weapons such as stealth fighters, large aircraft carriers and attack aircraft. Currently, there are concerns that Beijing may overtake the West in cutting-edge innovation areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum.

Perception of threats, problems and innovation

For decades, China's ruling elite has focused on competing with the United States. Growing concerns about the external security environment since the late 1990s, and particularly threats from the United States, have driven China to innovate. Beijing uses Washington's threat perception as a catalyst for the deployment of weapons and the creation of a broader technical security capability. This perception has become more frightening and pervasive under Xi Jinping and serves well to motivate and encourage technological innovation and China's defense industry.

In contrast, the United States has recently begun to pay attention to China's challenges. As China has stepped up its efforts to innovate and modernize its military since the early 2000s, the United States has not seen these efforts as a strategic threat as China's capabilities remain far inferior to America's. Indeed, while Beijing focuses on Washington, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has been embroiled in the global war against terrorism and threats from the Middle East.

While the Bush and Obama administrations have expressed concern about China's growing military might, only the Trump administration, in documents such as the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, has spoken openly about China's challenges and its rise to power. .. competition is top priority. The Biden administration sees China as "our most important strategic competitor and a major challenge" in its defense planning. While there is current general consensus about the need to counter its aspirations to become a high-tech superpower, the action lags behind the rhetoric.

China's new approach to state-led innovation

Central and top-down coordination have played an important role in many, if not most, of China's major strategic technological advances, from nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to manned space programs and advanced computers. This top-down approach is driven by a centralized planning system that relies on direct administrative oversight by state agencies and parties and the use of sanctions to enforce compliance by companies, research institutes and other organizations. Although the post-1978 reform era saw some widespread loosening and elimination of state control, state planning, management, and intervention remained extensive as the technical security ecosystem was still dominated by the state.

The Chinese authorities have tried to stimulate innovation by strategically focusing on a hybrid approach to innovation and trying to promote innovation at the national level. First, in the second half of the 2010s, China began to lay the groundwork for a solid and broad civil-military fusion structure. Beijing appears to be hoping to use a source of civic innovation as broad as the United States over the next decade or so. While this approach has not yet had a significant impact on Chinese innovation and the structural barriers to achieving this goal are high, Xi Jinping's active leadership in the military-civilian integration initiative bodes well for success.

Second, as another big long-term gamble, Beijing is increasingly focusing on self-sufficiency and moving from absorbing foreign technology to focusing on native home innovation. However, the main and deliberately designed limitation of this model is that it can only handle a certain number of priority strategic and defense projects. Access to and exploitation of foreign technology and knowledge will continue to be an important factor in the future. Reliance on technonationalists is an established, low-risk, high-value development strategy that offers protection, while building initial innovation capacity is a long-term and high-risk task.

America's bottom-up market approach to innovation

While China has taken a bottom-up government approach to defense innovation, the United States has traditionally had success with a bottom-up market approach. The relationship between state and market developed during the Cold War, and this was a major factor in the success of America's technological security system over its counterpart in the Soviet Union. However, in the post-Cold War era, and particularly in the 21st century, the traditional strengths of America's technological security systems have not become obsolete. There are three factors that need special attention.

First, mutually beneficial public-private partnerships have historically been a key driver of American business. However, in the 21st century, relations between the state and the private sector have deteriorated. Too often, the views of the defense industry are viewed with suspicion and in recent years the hostility between government and industry has become more visible. It threatens to turn this pillar of strength into a source of weakness. When Beijing pushes for civil-military mergers, the US government often distances the defense industry. While there has been much talk in recent years about the need to innovate, it is often not followed by action. The complaint that the Defense Innovation Unit, created to accelerate the introduction of new technology in the field, was reduced to recruitment and procurement was enough to kill the unit director's candidacy for the post of deputy defense minister for procurement and support, which illustrates the government's position . schizophrenia topic.

Two trends in particular have contributed to the erosion of public-private partnerships in the United States. First, the defense procurement system has become increasingly rigid and risk-prone. This gives companies little incentive to take critical innovation risks. This system also prevents companies from solving problems quickly with known or promising solutions. This system is so large and complex that it cannot be reformed. In addition, the Department of Defense is increasingly isolated from many of the most innovative and growing business sectors of the economy. Not surprisingly, according to former Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Development Mike Griffin, the Department of Defense takes 16 years to implement an idea, while China is sometimes said to be able to do so in less than seven years. years - although careful selective analysis of the Chinese program shows that this is not the case.

Second, the US technology security system is struggling to make its voice heard in driving innovation as its once dominant position as a major source of R&D investment has declined. The US Department of Defense accounted for only 3.6% of global R&D spending in the early 2020s, down from 36% at its peak in 1960.

Furthermore, the Pentagon has evolved from a technology pioneer to an increasingly active investor in technology research. This means that many technologies originate in civilian environments and are then - and often too late - adapted for defense and dual use. While US technology security systems are affordable and allow access to greater innovation, it risks becoming a follower rather than a leader unless it fills a gap in defense-related fields that the commercial sector is resisting. or unable to participate.

If this trend continues, the US technical security system could lose its influence and place in the US innovation system, which will be increasingly marginalized. This is already happening in the corporate sector. In the second half of 2010, the top five US technology companies, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, spent ten times more a year on research and development than the top five US defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon. This growing imbalance between the public and private sectors could lead companies to decide that the technical security business is not profitable enough and prompt them to focus on more lucrative commercial markets at home and abroad, including China. . The revitalization of public-private relations will be at the core of any US effort to compete crediblely with China in the long term.

Cooperation with global partners is becoming increasingly important

As the world's most advanced country in technological security, the United States has become a dominant exporter of advanced technology, knowledge, and industrial products in both the military and civilian sectors. Having a comprehensive world-class science and technology base, particularly in defense technology, means that the United States has traditionally shown little interest in acquiring foreign technology and knowledge. This sense of industrial and technological superiority led to a fierce and enduring techno-nationalist ideology and attitude in which the United States saw itself above the rest of the world.

But in the 21st century, the global technology landscape is changing rapidly with the emergence of a myriad of new technologies, many of which are defensive and have a dual purpose. As the share of global R&D investment declines, it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive for the United States to keep pace with technological advances in all key areas, making cooperation with foreign partners even more attractive and necessary. This cooperation takes place in areas such as 5G, quantum computing and communications, where China is very active and competing for global leadership. But the prominence of techno-nationalism has long been rooted in the institutional culture of the US techno-security system that a fundamental shift towards a more collective techno-globalist approach is likely to meet ingrained resistance and take time to be implemented effectively. .

Over time, efforts have been made to lay the groundwork for a more globalist approach to technical security. The 2021 conclusion of a security agreement known as "AUKUS" (Australia, United Kingdom and United States), which focuses on advanced defense and dual-use capabilities, is the latest and promising opportunity for UK growth globally. oriented countries. technology mode.

One area where the United States could forge closer partnerships with foreign allies is controlling the spread of classified technology. To address the technological challenges of the Soviet Union and Japan in the 20th century, the United States created a number of institutional structures to control the flow of technology and expertise into these countries, most notably the Multilateral Coordinating Committee for Export Control. These regimes have worked effectively in their respective fields, but the unified civil-military challenge posed by China has required the US government to develop a more robust and comprehensive approach than the current specialized and underdeveloped interagency process.

The United States is modernizing this outdated regime with additional reforms such as the Foreign Investment Risk Modernization Act of 2018 and an updated export control regime. However, there are still gaps in high-tech and new strategic technologies that have a dual purpose, which requires new, fully specialized institutional mechanisms that can respond and work more effectively in these areas.


The US defense system in the early 1920s remained much more powerful and more innovative than the Chinese defense system. However, this government is constantly being undermined by US institutional sclerosis, widespread global technological change, and the rapid development of China's security technology. The relaunch of key components of the US technical security system, particularly public-private partnerships and engagement with global partners, will enable the US to maintain long-term global leadership, even as the gap with China continues to shrink. The United States must make more radical reforms to stay far ahead. Much will also depend on how serious the US is about China's long-term technical security challenges to its national security and global leadership role, given the many competing domestic and international demands.

For China, the reconstruction of the state of techno security under the United States has led to the fact that the gap with the United States continues to narrow, but for a successful transition from recovery to parity or even leadership, structural changes are even more significant. needed. More effective coordination of state and market mechanisms is needed. оўнае аграмнае абеспячэнне ацыіі - ольш а аенна-грамадзянскага амыкамыкамыкекомыкамыкамыкамы - акмтцекманыкамыкамыкамыкам Удасканаленне мадэлі цэнтралізаванай каардынацыі «зверху ўніз» будзе асабліва важным у гонцы за развіццём новых базавых тэхналогій, паколькі актыўнае ўмяшанне дзяржавы на ранняй стадыі можа згуляць больш эфектыўную і вырашальную ролю, чым падтрымка рынку «знізу ерх». айскае ава ай екі адасць агчымасць аваць авыя апаткі, алі о ахоча аглядзець а а ат аажу

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