Roman roads, Chinese gunpowder, British steamships, repeating firearms: great power competition has always been defined by technological edge. Today China, Russia, Iran and others recognise that technology can nullify the military and economic supremacy that the UK, US and their allies have long enjoyed.
China is singularly focused on catching up. It does so legally by investing billions in key technologies; fomenting science, technology, engineering and maths education; and by mining open-source databases. It also does so illicitly via cybertheft and industrial espionage.
How the world reacts will decide whether the west continues to lead and reap the benefits of technological innovation. Europe and the US have been unable so far to shape China’s behaviour. But the time for complacency is over. We need a strategy to remain competitive. Crucially, this requires deeper mutual engagement.
After the second world war, Europe and the US created an international order. They established norms for peaceful economic relations, and international standards governing everything from telecommunications to satellites and safe flight paths. This enormous effort paid off. It is now time to do the same for tech development: a proposal I call the “Technology 10”.