Chinese companies have outpaced their US rivals in the tech patents race, filing more applications in 9 of 10 categories, including artificial intelligence and blockchain, a recent Nikkei study shows.
China became the leader in 2017, accounting for 49 percent of total applications. Apart from AI and blockchain, it enjoyed advantages in patent applications for drones, cyber security, virtual reality, autonomous driving, lithium-ion batteries, and regenerative medicine.
The only sphere in which China is still trying to catch up to the US is the strategically important quantum computing. However, the report analyzed patents filed from 2000 to 2017, and China has already launched what it calls a “megaproject” for quantum research, aiming to achieve significant breakthroughs by 2030.
The driving force behind China’s push for global hegemony in advanced technology are four companies known as ‘BATH’ – Baidu, Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Huawei. Chinese tech major Huawei has been targeted and banned by the US, which is pushing its allies to ban the firm over spying allegations.
The report says US companies still dominate in terms of quality – among the 100 innovators that made it into the top 10 of all categories, 64 are American and only one is Chinese.
However, the situation could change dramatically over the next decade. China has the world’s second-largest science and technology budget, amounting to $460 billion in 2017. If it continues to boost expenditures at the same pace, it could eventually dethrone the US, which poured more than $500 billion into the field in 2017, according to the study.