China’s “dramatic progress” in technological innovation has rapidly narrowed the gap with the United States and requires a response from Washington similar to the strategy implemented in the 1950s and 1960s when challenged in the space race by the Soviet Union to maintain its advantage, according to a US think tank. “Had China been 80 per cent behind the US a decade or so ago, it would be just 50 per cent behind in the most recent year,” said the report by Washington-based non-profit organisation Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which was written by founder and president Robert D. Atkinson and research assistant Caleb Foote. The conclusion came from the examination of 36 indicators, including the research and development input as a percentage of gross domestic product, basic research expenditures, the number of people with bachelor or master degrees, the number and quality of universities, the number of patents as well as the use of broadband communications and industrial robots. “If China is only a copier, then the risk to advanced economies is limited. But if China is more like the Asian tigers that rapidly evolved from copiers to innovators, the threat is serious,” the report stressed, referring to countries like Japan and South Korea that have developed into world-class innovators. “There is no reason to believe China will not follow the same path – only with significantly greater impacts because the Chinese economy is massive, Chinese policies are more aggressively mercantilist, and it is much more difficult to get China to compete fairly.” In 1957 Russia launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and in 1961 cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, but through its technological capability and significant investment, it was the US who landed the first humans on the moon in 1969. The report came as the US is growing increasingly wary of China’s intentions with regards to technological advancement, with Washington accusing Beijing of stealing technology through cyber espionage and forced technology transfers. The “Made in China 2025” programme set out China’s ambitions to dominate 10 key technologies, but in the face of strong objections from Washington and the European Union, it has been downgraded despite continued heavy in research and development. investment. “China has put its mind and heart and soul into not just being an innovator, but to being, in the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, ‘master of its own technologies’,” the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report added. In the semiconductor sector, for example, China’s level of added value relative to US levels has increased from 51 to 145 per cent over the decade between 2006 and 2016, while exports have grown from 84 to 304 per cent in the same period, according to the report. In addition, China has developed an army of powerful technology companies including Huawei, Tencent and Alibaba, according to the report. Alibaba is the owner the South China Morning Post . To ensure continued leadership “the United States must do more than join with allies to convince China to play by the rules, it must put in place its own robust national innovation and competitiveness strategy,” the report added. The US has already banned Huawei from much of its domestic market before Canada detained its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US government in December.