Like everybody in Asia, China wants a DARPA

A large number of breakthrough innovations that changed our lives over the last 50 years have been developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the heart of the US Department of Defense (DOD) science and technology research and development. Founded in response to the surprise Sputnik launch by the Soviet Union in 1958, the DARPA has been famous for having founded the Internet and the GPS.

After Japan and the ROK, China’s two main competitors in Asia, have launched similar initiatives, Beijing has appointed Liu Guozhi, an applied physicist and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to create China’s DARPA with an undisclosed allocation from China’s $147 billion defense budget in 2016. Beyond budgetary constraints and obvious discrepancy compared to the US DARPA, the main challenge for China’s DARPA will be to develop sound public-private partnerships. Given that most of if not all what concerns defense developments in China is dealt as a state secret, it will likely take some time before the Chinese government can develop fruitful cooperation with private companies.

This would require a major cultural and political leap, considering that according to US sources, this is the fact that private companies can work freely that made so many innovations possible. The US DARPA has managed to create technologies because it has successfully coordinated efforts from both the public and private sides towards reaching well-defined goals. It will demand China much time and resources to create such an optimal planning, funding and coordinating ecosystem.