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China's 5G and supercomputing industrial policies: A critical (comparative) analysis

The Chinese central government has greatly supported two strategic high- tech industries: 5G and supercomputing. However, when both encountered similar U.S. sanctions, the 5G industry failed to make crucial upstream components while the supercomputing industry could. This article argues that the central government- level industrial policies contributed to these divergent outcomes. Using natural language processing and qualitative content analysis of meticulously collected official documents and secondary sources, key policy differences were identi-fied. Before the U.S. sanctions in May 2019, China's 5G industrial policies were significantly unbalanced, with inadequate attention given to research and devel-opment of vital upstream components, contributing to a lack of upstream invest-ment. Although recent attempts to rebalance 5G industrial development since 2021, the policy focus remains largely on the mid and downstream segments. In contrast, before the U.S. sanctions in 2015, the supercomputing industrial poli-cies emphasised the development of the entire industrial chain, including crucial upstream components, resulting in China's possession of entirely homegrown supercomputers. Leveraging a tri- level analysis framework rooted in political eco-nomics, this study also offers possible explanations for the policy divergence and discusses implications. It contributes to the existing literature and ongoing debate on China and industrial policy amidst great power high- tech competition.

This article was published by the SSCI-indexed Global Policy in July 2023, which can be accessed at



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