Western democracies are losing the global technological competition

06 March, 2023

3 min read

Last updated on 06 March, 2023

One Sunday morning I've been reading my subscriptions and in one of them about security I've trapped on quite disturbing report. It's called 'Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Critical Technology Tracker - The global race for future power'. The essence of it is tracking advance of every country in 44 key technologies.

List of critical technologies in the national interest

You can download the file with list of critical technologies there.

I'll list main categories in my blog.

  • Advanced materials and manufacturing
  • AI, computing and communications
  • Biotechnology, gene technology and vaccines
  • Energy and environment
  • Quantum
  • Sensing, timing and navigation
  • Transportation, robotics and space

In each of the main category there are sub categories, but as there too many of them – you can familiarise yourself with them by downloading the document.

China’s global lead extends to 37 out of 44 technologies that ASPI is now tracking

The Critical Technology Tracker shows that, for some technologies, all of the world’s top 10 leading research institutions are based in China and are collectively generating nine times more high-impact research papers than the second-ranked country (most often the US). Notably, the Chinese Academy of Sciences ranks highly (and often first or second) across many of the 44 technologies included in the Critical Technology Tracker. (source)

A key area in which China excels is defence and space-related technologies. China’s strides in nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles reportedly took US intelligence by surprise in August 2021. (source)

Over the past five years, China generated 48.49% of the world’s high-impact research papers into advanced aircraft engines, including hypersonics, and it hosts seven of the world’s top 10 research institutions in this topic area. (source)


What countries can do now to reduce China's technological advance and prevent monopoly (according to authors of research). (source)

Partners and allies need to step up and seriously consider things such as sovereign wealth funds at 0.5%–0.7% of gross national income providing venture capital, research and scale-up funding, with a sizable portion reserved for high-risk, high-reward ‘moonshots’ (big ideas). Governments should plan for:

  • technology visas, ‘friend-shoring’ and R&D grants between allies
  • a revitalisation of the university sector through specialised scholarships for students and technologists working at the forefront of critical technology research
  • restructuring taxation systems to divert private capital towards venture capital and scale-up efforts for promising new technologies
  • new public–private partnerships and centres of excellence to help to foster greater commercialisation opportunities.

Report provides 23 recommendations on how to act. There is also a website, where you can check technology and explore the data from the report in human-friendly form. Please, do it and share with your peers.

My personal takeaways

We must act collectively and I want to go to the academia again. I have those thoughts already for a long time, but always doubt myself. I will try to find my ways to combine work I love and highly appreciate and studies, because seems like we are in demand of hands and brains in a lot of directions.

I can't say I'm a perfect or worthy brain to go to academia, though. But I hope, that at least my hands might be useful somewhere. Especially, in a such concerning context.

I encourage all my friends and readers to pursue fearlessly depth of field you are interested in. There are tons of technologies Western countries are sucking in – choose your fighter and go. What I especially don't like, it's that we have such a great choice. I prefer China to be dominant just in few areas rather than in 37 out of 44.

The system is not great, but nobody would change it, except us.


Troy Köhler is Software Engineer living in Berlin, Germany with ~6 years of experience working in technology industry. He used to work in one of the biggest e-commerce product in Ukraine, and now works at Zalando which has more than 7 millions paying customers. He focuses his study and expertise on Rust language, complex backend systems, product development and engineering platforms.

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