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China surpasses Korea in technology level for the first time

China surpasses Korea in technology level for the first time

Posted March. 01, 2024 07:24,   

Updated March. 01, 2024 07:24


China has overtaken Korea in 136 national core technologies across 11 major fields for the first time. While Korea narrowed its technological gap with the U.S. by about 1.5 years over a decade, reducing it from 4.7 years to 3.2 years, China significantly closed the gap with the U.S. from 6.6 years to 3.0 years, surpassing Korea. In terms of 50 national strategic technologies alone, China is far ahead. It is chilling to think that the era of China working hard to catch up with Korea is already over.

The Technology Level Assessment Results, which are released every two years by the Ministry of Science and ICT, compare the technology levels of five major countries (Korea, the United States, the European Union, Japan, and China). It considers the United States, which was ranked first in 2022, as 100 percent and compares it to other countries. According to this measure, China is at 82.6%, while Korea is at 81.5%. In 2020, Korea barely held a lead over China by 0.1 percentage points, and this year, for the first time, the tables have turned. While China ran, Korea crawled. In information and communication technology, China, which was at 67.5% of the U.S. in 2012, caught up to 87.9% a decade later. Over the same period, Korea stagnated from 82.2% to 82.6%.

China's technology level is at 86.5% in 50 national strategic technologies, surpassing Korea (81.7%) and Japan (85.2%). It is rapidly catching up with the United States in quantum computing, aerospace, and artificial intelligence (AI). On the other hand, Korea is only at the top in secondary batteries. In the aerospace and marine sectors, the technology gap with the US has widened significantly from 8.6 years in 2020 to 11.8 years in just two years.

Since launching its ‘Made in China 2025’ policy in 2015, China has been focusing its talent and national budget on high-tech industries to raise its technological level. As a result, China became the world's No. 1 automobile exporter last year, led by its electric vehicles, and is competing with the United States in key future industries, such as AI and robotics. Earlier this year, at the world's largest IT and consumer electronics exhibition, CES 2024, and the world's largest telecommunications exhibition, Mobile World Congress (MWC), which concluded on Thursday, Chinese companies participated in large numbers and showcased their technological prowess, drawing global attention.

But once an honor student in research and development (R&D), Korea's technological competitiveness has been regressing. It has focused on easy tasks, seeking stability instead of innovation, and has lacked the deregulation and financial support necessary to stimulate private R&D investment. Last year, the government drastically cut the R&D budget for this year without adequate preparation, causing conflict with the scientific community. We need to actively support research that is willing to take up the challenge, foster talent, and restore technological competitiveness to survive the increasingly fierce global high-tech war.