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China’s Not-So-Super Computers

  Wall Street Journal (03/23/12) Bob Davis

 China’s latest supercomputer, Nebulae, symbolizes the country’s growing ambition to challenge the United States and other developed nations in technology.  China’s progress in developing supercomputers has led to increased anxiety in the United States over possibly losing its position as the world leader in supercomputing technology.  However, a closer examination of China’s supercomputers reveals a program that is far less of a threat to U.S. technological dominance than commonly believed.  In China, decisions on how supercomputers are used are often made by local politicians who are more interested in local developments than in breakthrough technology.  This is a reminder that China remains a developing nation whose main goal is to close the technological and economic gap with more developed countries.  China hasn’t determined the best way to pioneer new technologies in part because researchers are rewarded according to the number of academic papers they publish rather than the quality and novelty of their work, says the University of Oregon’s Richard Suttmeier.  However, Chinese scientists have benefited from training at top U.S. and European research centers, as well as using U.S.-made microchips.  “The critical point is keep devising strategies in the U.S. to stay way ahead of the game,” Suttmeier says.


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