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January 13, 2023

Decoupling Wastes U.S. Leverage on China

By Paul Scharre

In October, the Biden administration announced sweeping export controls on semiconductors to China. Denying access to chips is necessary, the administration said, to keep them out of Chinese weapons and protect U.S. national security. The new policy is a mistake, however, and will harm U.S. security rather than defend it. In cutting off China’s access to advanced chips today, the United States is giving up its long-term leverage over Chinese artificial-intelligence development and accelerating China’s drive toward chip independence. Recent U.S. export controls are the latest step in “decoupling” U.S.-China technology ties, yet decoupling is not enough to secure U.S. interests in a long-term competition. A better approach would be to keep China dependent on U.S. technology, giving the United States the ability to deny China access to key technologies when necessary.

The ability to deny China access to advanced chips is a powerful advantage whose value is growing exponentially.

Recent U.S. export controls are a major escalation in the U.S.-China tech competition. In September, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced a change from the U.S. goal of being “only a couple of generations ahead” of China in key technologies to maintaining “as large of a lead as possible.” The Biden administration’s aggressive new semiconductor export controls put this principle into practice, aiming to stop Chinese chip development in its tracks. Yet key elements of the policy are likely to backfire.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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