June 29, 2018

Should the U.S. Start a Trade War with China over Tech?

A ChinaFile Conversation

By ​Rush Doshi and Elsa B. Kania

Just as China pursues asymmetric strategies in the military domain, using cheaper missiles and mines to offset expensive American carriers and bases, so too is it pursuing asymmetric approaches in the economic domain. Chinese technology theft and transfer – through cyber-espionage, forced technology sharing, state-backed purchases of Western companies, and the repatriation of researchers – constitute a longstanding, documented, and asymmetric shortcut to the technological frontier relative to laborious and costly American investments in research and innovation.

As China gains ground in a technological race with the United States, many argue that the United States should “run faster” by recommitting to basic science research, high-skilled immigration, and funding for STEM research. These are necessary prescriptions, and they are increasingly important as China itself becomes a leading innovator, but they are insufficient to cope with China’s technological challenge. Running faster will do little good if China takes shortcuts to the finish line; pouring funds into innovation will produce little economic and strategic advantage if those breakthroughs are promptly transferred to China.

The essential question for U.S. policy, then, is not simply whether and how the United States should run faster—virtually all agree that it should—but how it should recalibrate economic and technology interdependence with China without undermining its own technological dynamism.

The United States needs a “managed interdependence” with China in the technology domain, one that recognizes how essential China’s innovative ecosystem in hardware is to U.S. companies—as Matt Sheehan has shown—but also acknowledges that certain practices in technology investment, education, and supply chains need adjustment. When it comes to sensitive technologies, Washington should not treat all activities of a Party-state that blurs the public and private as if they are as benign as those of a U.S. ally.


Read the Full Article at ChinaFile

  • Podcast
    • July 10, 2020
    Ep. 72: What “China” means in 2020

    We take a new look at what China means to American voters, and how opinions and perceptions about China have changed since President Trump took office three and a half years a...

    By Kara Frederick

  • Commentary
    • July 8, 2020
    Digital Threats to Democracy: Divided Against Itself

    This ongoing series from Technology for Global Security (T4GS) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) examines the elements and potential implications of digital th...

    By M. Nina Miller

  • Video
    • July 6, 2020
    Will New American CEO Change TikTok's Image in US?

    Kevin Mayer, a former executive at Disney, recently started his new role as TikTok’s new CEO. He must prove to American lawmakers, regulators and consumers that they can trust...

    By Ainikki Riikonen

  • Commentary
    • June 24, 2020
    Digital Threats to Democracy: Ruling with a Silicon Fist

    This ongoing series from Technology for Global Security (T4GS) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) examines the elements and potential implications of digital th...

    By M. Nina Miller

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia