In mid-November, the US commerce department published a short notice that was striking for its wide-ranging implications. In it, the Trump administration presented a list of emerging technologies — including robotics, genomics, artificial intelligence and quantum computing — for which it was considering export controls to prevent them from falling into foreign hands, if they were deemed to be vital to national security.
The move was soon seen as opening a new front in the confrontation with China, at a time when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping were already in a damaging trade war involving escalating tit-for-tat tariffs. Behind it are growing concerns among US officials and business executives that China is winning the race to develop the technologies of the future, and needs to be stopped — for economic, strategic and military reasons — if the US is to retain its global dominance in the 21st century.
Mr Trump casts the trade war with China as about bringing jobs home and cutting the trade deficit. But it is the technology rivalry that could prove hardest to settle as he tries to craft a truce with Mr Xi before March 2, the deadline they set during December’s G20 meeting in Argentina.
“Technology competition is at the centre of the trade war and I expect it will continue regardless of whether there is a deal,” says Ely Ratner, a former Obama administration official and executive vice-president at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “China will likely address some US concerns but it’s extremely unlikely to cede to the Trump administration . . . on state-led support for its technology sector, so it will continue to be a source of friction,” he adds.
Read the full article and more in The Financial Times.