The US Risks Losing its Innovative Edge to China

A report delivered by the Council on Foreign Relations makes mention of the fact that China threatens the United States’ dominance in tech. Unless the US takes the necessary measures over the next five years to encourage innovation, the country may be facing a similar situation to when the Russians beat them into space by launching Sputnik. The report goes on to highlight areas of innovation that the US should invest in to retain their dominance, including AI and data science.

R&D Expenditures Compared

The US National Science Board notes that annual spending on tech R&D in China stands at around $409 billion annually, with a growth rate of 18%. Conversely, the US spends approximately $497 billion annually, growing at 4% every year. If these trends continue, it’s not a stretch to assume that China’s tech sector will surpass the US simply because of the amount of money invested. The US is currently at one of its lowest levels of public funding since the second world war.

Private sector investment has risen over the last decade, but there are certain things the private sector simply can’t do. Federally funded research and development are necessary for projects in science that investigate the existing accepted theory and push the boundaries of knowledge. These are the kind of experiments that fuel innovation, but they are also the ones with the most risk attached to them. Funding from the government for these tasks is necessary to keep change moving forward.

Not Game Over Just Yet

For the US to retain its control over the tech industry, the council makes a few recommendations. The US needs to increase the number of scholarships for tech innovators and change its immigration policies to make it easier for these innovators to migrate. Additionally, the country must partner with other nations to develop common technical standards across the board. Only time will tell if the American administration will pay the report any heed.