By Rajeshni Naidu-Ghelani, Technology reporter, BBC News
China has almost tripled its number of supercomputers, according to a reputable list of the world’s most powerful machines.
The country has 109 high-performance computing systems on the biannual Top500 list of supercomputers, up 196% from 37 just six months ago.
The most powerful supercomputer, China’s Tianhe-2, also retained the top spot for the sixth consecutive time.
In contrast, the US has seen the number of its supercomputers decline.
The US has 200 machines in the rankings, which is the largest number from a single country. But, that total number has fallen to the lowest level since computer scientists started compiling the list 22 years ago.
The power of the biggest supercomputer
Tianhe-2 was created by China’s National University of Defense Technology and is being used at a supercomputer centre in the southern coastal city of Guangzhou.
It is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion calculations in one second, which is almost twice the speed of the second most powerful supercomputer on the list – the US energy department’s Titan.
Supercomputers are developed to perform complex simulations or applications to help scientific research in a wide range of industries such as predicting weather forecasts to making drug discoveries and DNA sequencing.
What lies behind China’s supercomputer rise
Rajnish Arora, vice president of enterprise computing at market research firm IDC Asia Pacific, said China’s rise does not necessarily mean the US is under-investing, but is more to do with the evolution of China’s economy and businesses.
“When China started off appearing on the centre stage of the global economy in the 80s and 90s, it was predominately a manufacturing hub,” he told the BBC.
“All the IP (intellectual property) or design work would happen in Europe or the US and the companies would just send manufacturing or production jobs to China.
“Now as these companies become bigger, they want to invest in technical research capabilities, so that they can create a lot more innovation and do basic design and engineering work.”
The Chinese government and companies want to become the creators and not just producer of products that are being designed elsewhere, he added. Read more