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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How China’s Defense Innovation System Is Advancing the Country’s Military Technological Rise


The preceding brief in the series provided an analytical framework for examining a country’s defense innovation system and the factors that shape innovation outcomes. This brief applies the framework to examine the factors at work in the Chinese defense innovation system. There are many reasons explaining the successful transformation of the Chinese defense innovation system from an ossified dinosaur in the 1990s to an increasingly credible military technological competitor on the global stage at the end of the 2010s. China’s approach to defense innovation has undergone considerable evolution since it launched a full-fledged modernization of its defense science, technology, and industrial (DSTI) system in the late 1990s. Some of these changes mirror what has taken place within the civilian sector, but there is also much that is different because of the specific dynamics of the defense arena.

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