Editor’s Notes: An R&D Alliance That Can Challenge China

 In China, Australia, GDI, Industrial, Defense, Air

Editor’s Notes: An R&D Alliance That Can Challenge China

Illustration: iStock

MAKUHARI, Japan — The amount of fund­ing China is putting toward research and devel­op­ment is climb­ing faster than a Long March rocket. One could blud­geon read­ers with a raft of sta­tis­tics. It’s said the nation’s per­cent­age of GDP spend­ing on R&D will soon catch up with the United States and its annual expen­di­tures are increas­ing by huge amounts.

China’s stated goals include dom­i­nat­ing a group of high-tech fields before the end of the decade. And while that may or may not happen — unlike the U.S. gov­ern­ment — what lead­ers say must be exe­cut­ed. They don’t have con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tions in China.

But those sta­tis­tics don’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t take into account the value of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty in the United States, Europe and other free nations that is stolen and incor­po­rat­ed into Chinese weapon sys­tems. Why spend money on some­thing when it can be pil­fered for a lot less money and effort? It doesn’t take into account the 350,000

Chinese grad­u­ate stu­dents study­ing in the United States and return­ing to their home­land shar­ing what they learned.

So what can be done to chal­lenge China’s push to dom­i­nate a range of dual-use and mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies that can be used against the United States and its region­al allies?

The answer should have been obvi­ous to anyone who attend­ed the DSEI Japan con­fer­ence held near Tokyo in November. An R&D alliance includ­ing the United States, Japan and Australia is nec­es­sary and can chal­lenge China’s goal of mil­i­tary dom­i­nance in the region.

Japan is a tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced nation with a lot to offer in the fields of robot­ics, mate­r­i­al sci­ences, bat­ter­ies, med­i­cine, marine sci­ences, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, machine vision and others. It only recent­ly opened up to export­ing its mil­i­tary tech­nol­o­gy and it’s not yet adept on con­vert­ing dual-use items to defense appli­ca­tions. But the under­ly­ing R&D is there.

A trip National Defense made to Avalon — The Australian Air Show out­side of Melbourne ear­li­er last year — was also infor­ma­tive. Here is a coun­try of 25 mil­lion res­i­dents punch­ing way above its weight in terms of mil­i­tary tech­nol­o­gy and it has the poten­tial to do a lot more. It is spend­ing $200 bil­lion over a 10-year period to bol­ster its mil­i­tary and wants a good por­tion of those expen­di­tures to go toward build­ing up its indige­nous capa­bil­i­ties.

That pot of money can be lever­aged for an R&D alliance.

William Schneider Jr., a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former under­sec­re­tary of state for secu­ri­ty assis­tance, sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, said at the DSEI con­fer­ence that Japan and the United States can “mag­ni­fy” dual-use tech­nolo­gies through coop­er­a­tion. That is: “if we can change our insti­tu­tion­al process­es that trans­fer sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy knowl­edge into mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties.

“The nature of these new tech­nolo­gies — because they are gen­er­al­ly out­side of the defense indus­tri­al base — pro­vides some good oppor­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion with Japanese indus­try that doesn’t have the bur­dens that are asso­ci­at­ed with tra­di­tion­al defense hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

More dif­fi­cult to accom­plish and con­tro­ver­sial is the cre­ation of a new defense trade rela­tion­ship between the two coun­tries, he said.

Instead of trying to accom­plish this through a series of admin­is­tra­tive actions, anoth­er pos­si­ble approach would be through a treaty-based imple­men­ta­tion. A treaty is the equiv­a­lent of U.S. law and that would create a wholly new and spe­cif­ic basis for defense indus­tri­al coop­er­a­tion, Schneider noted. “The U.S. has tried this unsuc­cess­ful­ly in the past, but it could be a prac­ti­cal and effec­tive way to har­ness the capa­bil­i­ties of our two coun­tries.”

Richard Court, Australia’s ambas­sador to Japan, said, “As a small coun­try pop­u­la­tion-wise, we are doing more to ensure that we do have inter­op­er­abil­i­ty. Certainly, with the U.S. but also with Japan. It is crit­i­cal that we have people embed­ded in each other’s orga­ni­za­tions.”

He advo­cat­ed for more coop­er­a­tion with South Korea as well. Diplomatic rela­tions between Japan and South Korea are now at a low, but the United States can do a lot to bridge that gap and bring them into an R&D alliance.

One place for an alliance to start is at the grass roots. In this case, it would be at each other’s uni­ver­si­ties and research insti­tu­tions. U.S. uni­ver­si­ties have become addict­ed to the tuition money the 350,000 or so Chinese grad­u­ate stu­dents bring to their cof­fers. Let’s find a way to start swap­ping them out with Japanese, Australian and South Korean stu­dents.

That’s just a start.

Another would be to iden­ti­fy an advanced tech­nol­o­gy where all the nations can con­tribute. There is already a U.S.-Australia bilat­er­al hyper­son­ics pro­gram that is taking advan­tage of Australia’s wide-open spaces. Japan has iden­ti­fied the field as one of its top R&D pri­or­i­ties. It has strengths in advanced mate­ri­als that may be able to help.

And as Schneider point­ed out, both coun­tries are work­ing on 5G. “There may be some inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for U.S‑Japan col­lab­o­ra­tion for the defense appli­ca­tions.”
Canada is a Pacific nation as well. And coop­er­a­tion can be extend­ed to the free­dom-loving nations of Europe. Together, the prowess of such an R&D alliance can chal­lenge China.

But here’s an impor­tant point: once a tech­nol­o­gy is devel­oped under such agree­ments, it must be pro­tect­ed. Chinese hack­ers can’t be allowed to waltz in and steal it. That would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive — to say the least.

Topics: Research and Development, International, Global Defense Market

Source: NDIA

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