Battlefield Biotech: The Rising Competition Between China and the U.S.

Mar 26, 2018 | 09:00 GMT

A digital representation of the human genome.

A digital representation of the human genome. China is rapidly catching up with U.S. capabilities in biotechnology.

(MARIO TAMA/Getty Images)


  • Biotechnologies, especially gene-editing techniques, are evolving at a rapid pace. China's domestic sector is catching up with the West most rapidly in the area of health care.
  • China's compulsion to overcome environmental and demographic constraints will ensure it continues to give priority to developing its domestic biotechnology sector.
  • The West, in turn, will watch for shifts in Chinese policy that would allow for foreign participation in the country, while moving to protect its intellectual property there. 

Whether trade wars or tech wars, the future relationship between the United States and China is poised to be one of greater competition, if not greater contention. Trade deficits and potential trade wars and the race to supremacy in artificial intelligence have garnered the biggest headlines of late, but there's another contest waging with equal ferocity: biotechnology. The gene-editing technique CRISPR is by no means the only instrument in this contest, but it is indicative of the emerging battle in the biotechnology sector. By tracking the use of the technology in both agriculture and health care, we can see clear signs of where this trend is headed. In health care and agriculture, the United States can and will raise national security concerns, just as it recently has with high-technology investments. Similarly, Beijing and Washington will become technical competitors as China's demographic and resource constraints ensure it continues to support and...

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