A Chinese girl operates an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, in Suzhou city, east China's Jiangsu province

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Date published

Emerging technology dominance

What China’s pursuit of advanced dual-use technologies means for the future of Europe’s economy and defence innovation

In its quest to become a global ‘science and tech superpower’ and to build a strong military that can fight and win wars, China has embarked on a major process to achieve civil–military integration (CMI) and develop advanced dual-use technologies. Using various methods both to promote indigenous innovation and to access foreign technology and knowhow, China’s goal is to leapfrog the United States and Europe and achieve dominance in these technologies, which will have major civilian and military implications in the future. 

In their new report "Emerging technology dominance: what China’s pursuit of advanced dual-use technologies means for the future of Europe’s economy and defence innovation," Meia Nouwens (International Institute for Strategic Studies, IISS) and Helena Legarda (MERICS) outline the actions Europe should take to protect its own innovations.

The EU does not have strong, coordinated strategies to promote the development of indigenous dual-use technologies or to protect Europe’s indigenous innovation. As a result of this patchwork regime, China is either catching up to, or surpassing, European capabilities regarding most of these technologies through a ‘whole-of-government’ regulatory framework and financial investment, as well as by accessing European innovation and technology through a variety of means.

For Europe, the incentive to keep up with China’s progress in these technologies, and to protect its own innovation in this field, is one with military, but also commercial and economic, imperatives. At a time when China is increasing its commitment to this process of developing advanced, dual-use technologies, it is high time for Europe to think strategically and take action to leverage its own competitive advantages.

This report is part of the China Security Project, a cooperation between the MERICS and IISS.

Author(s)

Meia Nouwens

Research Fellow, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)