A research arm of the U.S. intelligence community just wrapped up a competition to see who could develop the best facial recognition technology. The challenge: identify as many passengers as possible walking on an aircraft boarding ramp. Of all the entries, it was a Chinese start-up company called Yitu Tech that walked away with the $25,000 prize this month, the highest of three cash awards.
Today, the most innovative research into space travel has shifted to the private sector, especially in the U.S. SpaceX's commercial rockets have not only cut the cost of launching into Earth orbit. They're precursors to bigger rockets the company hopes will send humans to Mars before the end of the 2020s, long before China's state-funded program achieves the same.
Until only a few years ago, talk of China as an innovator would have elicited scorn from most Western business and government leaders. The country was widely derided as a haven for copycats and pirates, or grudgingly acknowledged as an efficient manufacturing platform whose factories depended on the uneasy union of cheap Chinese labor and foreign technology.
China is building the world's fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second. A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.
A recent list showing the United States losing out to China on the ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers has one former national security scientist concerned. “It is almost like a canary in the mine type of situation,” said Tomas Diaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Discovery Park at Purdue University. “China has been very aggressive on this end of high performance computing.” And that is “worrying,” he added.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Steve Kwast believes a "Kitty Hawk" moment will begin a new era in space. But while the U.S. still leads every other country in space, Kwast cautions that the edge is whittling away. "In my best military judgment, China is on a 10-year journey to operationalize space. We're on a 50-year journey," Kwast told CNBC.
A team of Chinese researchers say they have completed the first long-distance quantum secure direct communication, a critical step toward sending messages that are truly safe from eavesdropping. The information traveled 2.7 kilometers along a quantum channel, the team said in a paper that was peer-reviewed by China’s Science Bulletin journal and placed online Oct. 22.
During China’s 19th Party Congress in October, President Xi Jinping placed innovation at the center of China’s national strategy. His remarks called for building China into a “science and technology superpower,” particularly as an “aerospace superpower” and “cyber superpower.” He highlighted notable achievements, including Mozi, the world’s first quantum satellite, and China’s space lab, Tiangong.
It’s important to recognize that China’s objective is to become competitive across virtually all advanced-technology industries--and that the techniques China is using to become so pose a direct, and even existential, threat to America’s high-tech industries and those of foreign counterparts. China’s economic development policy has fundamentally evolved over the past decade and a half from a foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction strategy to an indigenous innovation strategy.
The creation and subsequent adoption of 5G is seemingly inevitable, and like 4G, it will eventually become the leading mobile connection. That said, when the next generation of mobile technology arrives, it won’t be the U.S. or Japan leading the world in 5G users. It will be China.