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New China warning on technology arms race

Western nations have been warned they are well behind in key technological areas, with a new report showing China well in the lead as the world's scientific superpower.

The report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found China was leading the world in 37 out of 44 critical technology areas, such as defence, space, energy and artificial intelligence.

The United States came in second in the list, leading in the other seven critical technology areas studied.

According to the report, China had made significantly more scientific and technological breakthroughs across a range of industries, putting other countries at risk in the future.

"In the long term, China's leading research position means that it has set itself up to excel not just in current technological development in almost all sectors, but in future technologies that don't yet exist," the report said.

"Unchecked, this could shift not just technological development and control but global power and influence to an authoritarian state."

The think thank behind the report said the leading edge China had in research and science meant not only was it ahead in current industries, but potentially in technologies yet to be invented.

"(China's) lead, coupled with successful strategies for translating research breakthroughs to commercial systems and products that are fed into an efficient manufacturing base, could allow China to gain a stranglehold on the global supply of certain critical technologies," the report said.

In some technological areas, all of the world's top 10 research institutes in that area were based in China, while nine times more high-impact research papers were developed in China.

In order for other nations to keep up and overtake China in technology areas, the institute has recommended like-minded western nations work together on developing industries.

One such grouping was having Five Eyes nations - which include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and UK - work with Japan to build an intelligence analytical centre, focusing on China and technology.

"Governments around the world should work both collaboratively and individually to catch up to China and, more broadly, they must pay greater attention to the world's centre of technological innovation and strategic competition: the Indo-Pacific," the report said.

"These findings should be a wake-up call for democratic nations."