The one business story that has most captured the world's attention for at least the last three years is the rise of China as a formidable rival to that wee country across the pond, the US. While in the past those stories have mostly focused on matters of finance and trade, the emphasis is increasingly shifting to the notion of China as a technology powerhouse. Now a new survey of global executives claims the centre of tech innovation will shift from Silicon Valley to China in a mere four years.
Polling 668 business executives based in Europe, the Americas, the Asia Pacific region, Africa, and the Middle East, KPMG's 2012 Global Technology Innovation Survey found that 44 per cent believed the world's tech innovation centre of the world will soon shift from Silicon Valley to China.
"China's anticipated parity with the US tech sector shows the significant challenge facing the United States to retain its position as an innovation leader, as other key countries will continue to take steps to boost technology innovation and attract tech entrepreneurs as well," said KPMG partner Gary Matuszak.
In terms of which technologies will lead the global innovation shift, cloud computing appears to be the space that most are looking to for significant growth.
"It is clear that technology leaders in countries where technology innovation is thriving believe that the cloud represents a technology tidal shift. They are placing a huge bet on cloud," said Matuszak.
In fact, just about a year ago I myself had an extended meeting with Gartner Japan president Nobuhiko Hidaka at the firm's Tokyo office about IT research and trend analysis. According to Hidaka, the sector that will dominate the future of technology in Asia, even ahead of mobile, is the shift from personal computers to the cloud, a view shared by many tech execs in Asia.
And while the idea that Silicon Valley will be overtaken by China anytime soon is unrealistic to most observers stateside (only 28 per cent of the US survey respondents thought such a shift is underway), there are small signs everywhere that the world is preparing for China's ascendance.
Just yesterday the New York Times launched an account on Weibo, the popular Chinese equivalent to Twitter. The paper's first news post to the site linked to a tech story about Amazon in English. The Chinese version of the paper is expected to launch soon at cn.nytimes.com (the address currently only shows a login page).
Additionally, earlier this month Capgemini's annual World Wealth Report revealed that Asia now has more millionaires than North America. "It is significant that for the first time this year there are now more high net worth individuals in Asia-Pacific than in any other region," RBC Wealth Management head George Lewis said in the report.
But despite the survey's focus on China and the supposed shift away from Silicon Valley as the world's tech hub, the majority of global executives participating in the survey still cited Apple as the world's No. 1 innovator, followed by Google and Microsoft. So, if China plans to take over the reigns from Silicon Valley by 2016, the country certainly has its work cut out for it.