U.S. Falling Behind China in High-Tech Manufacturing

America is losing ground to both China and India in research and high-tech manufacturing, a fact that endangers the nation’s position in the world, according to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Will we maintain America’s innovation leadership, or are we going to fall behind? And I would say, let’s seize this opportunity and we really can’t afford not to,” US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said at the National Press Club, according to the Economic Times.

In the past 15 years, China has moved from 14th place to second in the world in published research articles, trailing only the U.S. now. Two Chinese universities – Tsinghua and Peking – supply the most foreign Ph.D.s in American universities.

“They come to the United States to get an education because the research in the United States is still the best in the world. But if they go back, then we lose a great deal,” Chu said.

He also pointed out that last year, for the first time in history, the majority of patents awarded by the U.S. patent office went to foreigners – a sign of just how much technological prowess America is losing.

Sitting at third right now, China’s patent filings are outpacing those in Japan and the U.S. so much so that by this time next year, China should be considered the world’s leader in innovation.

In September, it was reported that China was outpacing the U.S. in clean energy production.
China currently produces about half of the world’s demand for equipment used in building solar panels and wind turbines. China and its companies, heavily subsidized by their government, invested more than $30 billion in 2009 to produce energy technology designed to lower carbon dioxide emission.

China is also the world’s leading producer of wind and solar power.

“We face a choice today. Are we going to continue America’s innovation leadership or are we going to fall behind?” Chu said.

The world’s fastest high speed train is also in China, where the government is set to break ground on 30 new nuclear reactors.

In 1998, America’s share of the world’s high-tech export market was 25 percent, while China sat at just 10 percent. Ten years later, America’s share had fallen to less than 15 percent, while China’s share jumped to 20 percent.

America, however, does not have to take a backseat to China, Chu said. With adequate investment in the right industries and technologies, America can remain the world’s leader in the 21st Century. It will take a concerted effort on the part of governments, the private sector and individual citizens, though.

“America still has the opportunity to lead in a world that essentially needs a new industrial revolution,” he said. “But time is running out.”

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