Supercomputer Marks China’s Growing Tech Prowess

Supercomputer Marks China’s Growing Tech Prowess

The Guardian kicks off a series on China’s prospects for science and innovation by highlighting Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer, and asking what China’s tech push means for the rest of the world:

Tianhe-2 is just one example of how China is becoming a more significant force in global science and innovation. This is partly a story of massive and sustained investment: in 2012, China’s total R&D expenditure exceeded ¥1 trillion RMB ($163 billion USD). Since 2008, it has maintained 18 per cent year-on-year increases in research spending, in a period when the effects of the global financial crisis have seen investment flat-line or fall in the UK and other countries. As a result, China now accounts for 13 per cent of the world’s scientific papers, up from 5 per cent a decade ago.

Supercomputing is one of several priority sectors in which foreign technologies are being absorbed, adapted and improved. The same process has occurred with a number of the technologies that China is most proud of, including its high-speed rail networkadvanced nuclear reactors and the Shenzhou spacecraft.

These examples suggest that what China’s President Xi Jinping has termed “innovation with Chinese characteristics” will not be a straightforward path from imported to home-grown innovation, but a messier process in which the lines between Chinese and non-Chinese ideas, technologies and capabilities are harder to draw. [Source]

The Guardian claims that China’s absorptive capacity – its ability to absorb knowledge from other places – raises concerns among the UK and others over “how to strike the right balance between competition and collaboration in the “global race” that is now a mantra of so many ministerial speeches.” A UK delegation, which includes the Minister of State for Universities and Sciences, will travel to Beijing next week for high-level talks.


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