China's Leapfrog Strategy for Next-Generation Technologies
China is playing a game of leapfrog with the West when it comes to developing and deploying next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and quantum computing. These technologies have the potential to transform various domains, such as economy, military, education and society. But what does leapfrogging mean and how is China pursuing it
Leapfrogging is a concept used in economics and business to describe how a latecomer can catch up or surpass a leader by skipping intermediate stages of development and adopting advanced technologies or practices. For example, China lagged behind the West in installing copper wire for telephones, but that enabled it to adopt mobile phones faster and more widely. Similarly, China skipped the credit card era and entered the age of mobile payment, which is now more prevalent and convenient than in the West.
In the field of next-generation technologies, China is also trying to leverage its second-mover advantage by investing heavily in research and development, acquiring foreign talent and technology, building infrastructure and platforms, and creating favorable policies and regulations. China aims to become a global leader in AI by 2030, and has already made significant progress in areas such as facial recognition, natural language processing, computer vision and autonomous vehicles. China is also developing military applications of AI, such as semi-autonomous drones, robots and cyberwarfare.
However, leapfrogging is not without challenges and risks. China faces obstacles such as data quality, manufacturing capability, cybersecurity, ethical issues and social acceptance. China also has to contend with the resistance of its own military establishment, which may be reluctant to adopt disruptive technologies that could threaten its existing power structure. Moreover, China has to compete with the West, which still has an edge in innovation, talent and standards.
Therefore, leapfrogging is not a guarantee of success, but a strategy of catching up. China still has a lot of work to do to realize its ambitions and overcome its limitations. The West, on the other hand, should not underestimate China's potential and should also invest more in next-generation technologies to maintain its leadership and competitiveness.
One of the key areas where China is trying to leapfrog the West is electric vehicles (EVs). China is the world's largest EV market and has ambitious targets to increase the adoption of EVs in the coming years. China is also home to several leading EV makers, such as XPeng, Nio and Li Auto, which are competing with global rivals like Tesla and Volkswagen. These Chinese EV makers are not only producing high-quality and affordable vehicles, but also innovating in areas such as battery technology, autonomous driving and smart connectivity.
XPeng, for instance, recently unveiled its next-generation end-to-end integrated technology architecture SEPA2.0, which will serve as the backbone for its future EV models. SEPA2.0 consists of four core components: a new vehicle computing platform, a new operating system, a new in-car user interface and a new cloud service platform. XPeng claims that SEPA2.0 will enable faster and more seamless software updates, more personalized and intelligent user experiences, and more advanced autonomous driving capabilities.
Another area where China is aiming to leapfrog the West is quantum computing. Quantum computing is a nascent but potentially revolutionary technology that could perform complex calculations much faster than traditional computers. Quantum computing could have applications in fields such as cryptography, artificial intelligence, drug discovery and climate modeling. China has invested heavily in quantum research and development, and has achieved some notable breakthroughs, such as launching the world's first quantum satellite and building the world's largest quantum network.
China is also developing its own quantum computer prototypes, such as Jiuzhang and Zuchongzhi, which have demonstrated quantum supremacy or quantum advantage over classical computers on certain tasks. China's quantum ambitions are driven by both scientific curiosity and strategic considerations, as quantum technology could give China an edge in information security and military affairs. ec8f644aee