By Doug Kelly, American Edge CEO

“China is building a vast artificial intelligence(AI)-powered platform dubbed ‘Supermind’ to track millions of scientists and researchers around the world,” Newsweek reports. Beijing’s goal? To steal breakthrough technologies more quickly for its industry and the military, and to poach the inventors of these new innovations. This is a serious escalation in China’s plan to become the global technology leader by 2040, and one that needs to be aggressively countered by Washington and Western policymakers.

The Supermind effort is a strategic maneuver designed to disrupt the global balance of power in science and technology. Called a “Who’s Who” database of scientific experts and breakthroughs by one insider, the platform boasts access to 300 million global science and technology research papers and 120 million patents, alongside a mechanism to locate and scrutinize the work of 130 million scholars worldwide down to the last detail.

In an interview with Newsweek, Kevin Gamache, the chief research security officer at Texas A&M University, said the Supermind platform is focused on both intelligence and talent recruitment. “For sure, they’re going to use it to conduct targeted recruitment, or to place people in specific labs to gain access to knowledge and technology that is not yesterday’s technology but tomorrow’s, or even the next decade’s, technology,” Gamache said.

This could give Beijing an advantage in the race for world-changing technologies such as AI, quantum computing and semiconductors, which geopolitical analysts and technology experts say will define the future international balance of power.

At the same time China is vacuuming up global innovation knowledge, it is also severely restricting the world’s access to China’s leading scientific database, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI). China is also raiding U.S. consulting businesses operating in China, accusing some of espionage, national security offences, or stealing military secrets, in a heavy-handed effort to shut down their access to Chinese data.

Supermind will also generate hundreds of thousands of potential hacking targets for China’s massive cyberattack brigades. Led by its covert, state-backed Cyber Corps unit, which boasts 100,000 members all dedicated to conducting multi-year campaigns against critical U.S. entities, China steals more than $500 billion annually in U.S. technology and intellectual property (IP). Beijing has recently started utilizing a network of hundreds of private contractors to further scale its cyberattack efforts, including planting malicious code in critical U.S. infrastructure. In fact, FBI Director Christopher Wray declared that “The cyber threat posed by the Chinese government is massive. China’s hacking program is larger than that of every other major nation, combined.”

To win the tech race with China, the U.S. (and our allies) need to play smart offense, tough defense, and avoid short-sighted mistakes. Offensively, policymakers should focus on accelerating innovation across strategic technologies like AI, quantum computing,  and empowering the Western private sector ingenuity that drives many of these discoveries. By fostering a landscape ripe for technological breakthroughs, the West can maintain its lead in the ongoing digital competition.

Defensively, it’s imperative to disrupt China’s aggressive espionage and cyber-hacking endeavors, while denying Beijing access to key technologies like advanced microchips and supercomputers.

Equally critical is steering clear of self-inflicted setbacks, such as innovation-stifling regulations and policies in the U.S. and Europe. Unforced errors like these would inadvertently erode the West’s technological advantage at a time when we simply cannot afford it. As technology underpins national security, economic prosperity, and the advancement of democratic values, ensuring the West remains at the forefront of technological innovation and application is not just a matter of economic competitiveness but of global leadership and security.