7 February 2017

China Eyes Breakthrough R&D Defense Plan to Take on US Technological Dominance

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Recently, China established a new central commission for joint military and civilian development. The new institution will be chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"The commission will be the central agency tasked with decision-making, deliberation and coordination of major issues regarding integrated military and civilian development," read an official statement issued by Xinhua news agency.

According to military expert Vasily Kashin, the fact that the commission is overseen by the Chinese leader proves that it is expected to play an important role in China’s far-reaching defense modernization plans.

The conception of integrated military and civilian development was first presented in China back in the 1980s, at the early stage of China’s economic reforms.

Currently, the Chinese Central Military Council, the Industrial Ministry and the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry (SASTIND) include agencies coordinating military and civilian research and development (R&D) programs. Chinese defense companies actively recruit civilian technologies as well as embed military technologies into the economy.

Some Chinese and Western specialists point out that the new commission is expected to contribute to diversification of China’s defense industry. However, this assumption is ambiguous since the extent of diversification in the Chinese defense industry is already significant.

Currently, civilian production dominates defense R&D activities in all 10 Chinese major defense companies, with some of them having a 20 or even 10 percent share of military production.

Chinese defense companies develop and manufacture automobiles, machine tools, telecommunications equipment, oil refining equipment etc. There are also hundreds of private companies involved in the state arms procurement program.

"Apparently, a new coordinating commission stems from the fact that China is concerned about a major defense program gaining momentum in the United States. The program is known as the Third Offset Strategy. It’s aimed at countering China. The strategy is based on understanding the fact that in the future Washington will not be able to increase military spending will have to dominate China in R&D capabilities," Kashin told Sputnik Chinese.

The Third Offset Strategy presumes investments in the key breakthrough technologies which will be based on integrating civilian and military R&D.

Many of those technologies are civilian or dual-use, including among the priorities 3D-printing, AI, robotics, hypersonic technologies, underwater drones etc.

"Probably, the Chinese government sees the Third Offset Strategy as a real threat. As a result, the government decided to take control over development of civilian and defense technologies. So, an investment spike is expected in the priority R&D programs," he concluded.

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