How U.S. plans to counter China’s influence in technology

A demonstrator holds flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during an stop-over after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, U.S., January 14, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The U.S. Department of Commerce has added seven Chinese supercomputer makers to Entity List for their support to China’s military modernisation, and other destabilising efforts.

While Trump made a targeted attack at one company, the approach could be different with the incumbent Biden administration. The toolkit U.S. plans to use now is the “Endless Frontiers” bill.
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China’s growing influence in science and technology is a thorn in the flesh for the U.S. It is one of the reasons why the Trump administration went against the Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. It slapped sanctions on the 5G equipment maker, and called for its CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in 2018.

Several other prominent countries, including the U.K. and Sweden, banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment to them, citing national security concerns. The U.S. is continuing to pressure its allies to keep Huawei from selling their next generation wireless technology to them.

At the centre of this growing scepticism against one of the largest mobile device makers is a perception that Huawei is closely linked to the Chinese government, and as a result its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy on foreign governments. Huawei rejects these charges by the U.S. and its allies.

“Endless Frontiers”
While Trump made a targeted attack at one company, the approach could be different with the incumbent Biden administration. The toolkit U.S. plans to use now is the “Endless Frontiers” bill. Sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Todd Young in Congress last May, the bill seeks to widen the country’s science foundation by including technological research and calling for a centre for technology to be set up within the foundation.

The directorate will work to strengthen U.S.’s leadership in emerging technology like artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and advanced manufacturing.

The legislative proposal seeking to counter China’s tech dominance will allocate about $110 billion toward technology research. The bipartisan “Endless Frontiers” bill is said to be debated in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on May 12, according to a report by Reuters.

The bill will authorise $100 billion to be invested over the next five years in basic and advanced research, including semiconductors, quantum computing, and biotechnology. Another $10 billion will be earmarked to set up 10 technological hubs and create a crisis-response programme to address supply chain issues facing the semiconductor industry.

Apart from the proposed bill, Republican Senator John Cornyn said lawmakers are also likely to vote on approving at least $37 billion to fund programmes to boost U.S. semiconductor production that was authorised under a law enacted in January.

“Wasteful” bill?
While both Senate Democrats and Republicans are seen to be moving closer to clinching an agreement, there are questions on the effectiveness of the proposed bill.

Republican Senator Rand Paul calls the proposal “wasteful” and that it won’t “counter China’s rising influence”. In an opinion piece to The Hill, he points out that “Political considerations would replace sound investment decisions, and companies would be accountable to Congress, instead of investors.”

He also noted that a lack of profit motive within the government will make the proposal inherently less efficient than the marketplace.


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