China, Russia, May Take Lead in Key High Tech

A landmark, and worrisome, report revealing what America must do to prevent China and Russia from taking the lead in technologies that can threaten U.S. national security and the economy has been produced by the Ronald Reagan Institute.  The study is entitled “The Contest for Innovation: Strengthening America’s National Security Innovation Base in an Era of Strategic Competition.

It notes that “The outcome of this competition will determine not just American national security but also how the nations of the world interact.”

The prospects for Russia differ sharply from those of China.

Moscow is fully capable of competing with Washington in military matters.  As the New York Analysis has reported, its nuclear arsenal is the world’s most powerful. However, its economy and its demographic outlook are, in the phrase used by the report, “grim,” “Given these disadvantages,” the study notes. “Russia is limited to acting as a geostrategic spoiler seeking to undermine and weaken the United States, its alliances, and its global interests.”

The sharp decline in the price of oil only adds to Moscow’s economic woes.  That challenge is not  only in terms of income.  In the past, the Kremlin has used its energy supplies as a means to bludgeon energy-starved Europe into policy decisions that favor Moscow.  However, as the U.S. surpassed it in energy production, Washington has the ability to counteract that.

China has both a world-class military as well as an economy that rivals that of the United States. The Report reveals that it’s economy has surpassed that of the United States in terms of purchasing power parity and could, under some scenarios, pass the U.S. GDP in absolute terms in the mid- to late 2020s. “In pursuit of its goal of reshaping the world order, China aims to supplant the United States as the world’s leading technological power by 2030. China has articulated a distinct strategy of state driven innovation, defined by its concept of ‘military–civil fusion,’ to lead the world in cutting-edge technologies that might allow it to leapfrog the United States both economically and militarily.”

The combined military might of Russia and China, both nations that seek the decline of American influence and power, is an extraordinary challenge facing the U.S.  The report notes that “… the conventional overmatch that the United States has relied upon to undergird its deterrence posture since the end of the Cold War is eroding. The balance of power in East Asia has already shifted substantially in China’s direction. If this trend continues, effective deterrence in that region will likely fail, leaving the United States to face the unattractive alternatives of accepting aggression against its interests or its allies or triggering armed conflict with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with all the attendant risks of escalation…An ascendant, technologically advanced China poses a threat not just to U.S. security but also to the values of freedom and democracy that have shaped the world for more than a half century.”

Like so much else, the Covid-19 crisis sharply affects the international rivalry between the Russia, China, and the U.S. 

Beijing’s astonishing failure to inform the world community of the disease may have serious repercussions.  Despite its knowledge of Covid’s existence, China flew people every day on direct flights across the globe until the Trump travel ban of January 31.

The resulting pandemic caused tragic loss of life, and a major disruption of the global economy. For Russia, this has caused a major downturn in its key industry, energy exports.

After a long history of intellectual property theft, espionage, and unfair trade practices, this may finally cause the world community ato take action against China, which could result in limitations on its international commerce, a demand for reparations, and other financial and political sanctions, all of which limit Beijing’s ability to further finance its massive military buildup. 

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy & Government

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