'Decoupling' attempt by US endangering global tech advances
Published: Aug 11, 2022 11:30 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

China has overtaken the US to lead the world in the number of scientific research papers as well as most cited papers, The Guardian reported on Thursday, citing a report from Japan's National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTP).

The NISTP report found that China has displaced the US as the world's top scientific research paper publisher, and more importantly, Chinese scientific papers account for 27.2 percent of the world's top one percent of most cited papers, surpassing the US' 24.9 percent. The number of citations a paper receives is a commonly used metric to measure the quality of research papers.

The report was published at a time when the US tries to artificially push "decoupling" of US and Chinese technology ecosystems. Washington has been busy trying to coerce its allies to follow its steps to exclude China from the global industry and supply chain, especially in strategic sectors such as the semiconductor industry. 

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a long-brewing CHIPS Act that aims to strengthen US competitiveness over China by investing billions of dollars in semiconductor manufacturing and science research that favors the US. The law suggests tech firms applying US grant not to build more facilities in China and other countries "of concern," the latest example of US efforts to force global high-tech companies to pick a side between China and the US.

China is by far the biggest and fastest growing market for many global high-tech giants. Its huge market advantage that has been repeatedly mentioned by high-tech enterprises is a factor that makes those companies reluctant to choose sides between the US and China. However, many may have overlooked another thing: China's scientific strength in major subjects and in some fields of new technology has approached or already reached the world's advanced level. 

The NISTP report reminds us of this fact. It means countries that are forced to agree to technological decoupling from China under US' lobbying and coercion will not only lose the Chinese market, but also lose access to advanced Chinese technology through science cooperation. The loss caused by a technological decoupling may be more severe than what people would have imagined.

To take the example of Japan, as Japan and South Korea choose to hold a different attitude toward US' technological decoupling push, especially in semiconductor manufacturing and science research, some analysts said the Japanese semiconductor sector could suffer a heavy blow if Tokyo joins the US' decoupling bid.

The US has proposed a so-called "Chip 4" alliance with Japan to build a premium semiconductor supply chain, as part of its efforts to curb the growth of China's chip industry. In an apparent effort to head off risks stemming from dependency on China, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden in May reaffirmed their intention to strengthen cooperation on the production and development of semiconductors, The Japan Times reported.

While some may believe that US-Japan tech alliance seems to promise technological gain, it may produce the opposite effect, partly due to China's strong technological progress made in the past couple of years. Some studies have showed that Chinese technologies in some major fields have already reached the level of the developed countries, and that some of the new industries in China have reached the world's advanced level. 

If Japan joins the US in blocking China from the global industrial chain in strategic emerging industries, it will largely affect Japan's technological progress, and Japan's anemic economy will continue to struggle in the doldrums. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.