US plan to decouple tech from China lacks strategy
According to a new article by Jon Bateman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) think tank.
“The United States cannot afford to become embroiled in technological decoupling, one of the most important global trends of the early 21st century,” wrote Bateman, a former senior intelligence analyst, policy adviser and editor of speech to the US Department of Defense, in the document, titled “US China Technological ‘Decoupling’, a Strategy and Policy Framework”.
Bateman acknowledges that there is bipartisan support for measures controlling China’s access to American technology, but argues that the issue of who strategic technologies must be controlled and to what extent they are not defined.
“Where is the responsible stopping point – the line beyond which technology restrictions aimed at China are doing America more harm than good?” asked Bateman, who also claimed that “without a clear strategy, the US government risks doing too little or – more likely – too much to curb technological interdependence with China.”
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholar urged ‘sharper thinking’ and ‘more informed debate’ before criticizing actions the US often takes, such as using jargon that doesn’t have much meaningless (e.g. “supply chain security”) or silo- making important decisions and leaving the big picture aside.
“A technology decoupling strategy should consider more than technology- or China-specific concerns,” Bateman wrote. “It should be rooted in a broader Grand American Strategy that reconciles decoupling with other national priorities, from international trade to domestic political stability to global climate change, that could be directly or indirectly impacted.”
Bateman advocated a centrist strategy, which “identifies the US-China technology relationship as complex and uncertain, with zero- and non-zero-sum elements and mixed costs and benefits for both countries.”
“A long list of policy goals is not the same as a strategy,” Bateman said.
“The fact is, America has been technologically dominant for so long that some American leaders have come to take it for granted,” former Google CEO Eric Schmidt wrote in the newspaper’s foreword.
Schmidt described an entangled China and America whose relationship contained both interdependence and conflict that will have to continually renegotiate their relationship.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been hit hard by the US placement of some Chinese companies on the US list of companies that US companies cannot trade with. This cut off the Google Play Store and other Google Mobile Services (GMS) from Huawei phones and tablets. At the time, Huawei was the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, with each of its cellphones running Android. Google was then denied an exemption from joining the embargo, while others, like Microsoft, were given a pass, lending credence to the idea that the policy was patchy.
Bateman argues that developing the right policy will require thinking about how the United States aims to achieve several goals, such as maintaining a military advantage over China, limiting espionage, preventing Chinese sabotage in the event of a crisis or the fight against the theft of intellectual property.
Bateman’s key strategies seem pretty straightforward. For example, they include maintaining a military advantage over China by modernizing US forces through measures such as incorporating private sector innovations or designing new combat concepts for near peer-to-peer battle while by strengthening cybersecurity in the military. However, he acknowledged that bureaucracy can get in the way of achieving these advances.
“The coming wave of military-technological advances will likely produce a marathon competition that will last for many years, if not decades,” Bateman warned. He called tech controls that push back China’s People’s Liberation Army “worthwhile,” but called restrictions that degrade America’s own tech base while only temporarily disrupting “counterproductive.” Chinese progress.
“The paradoxes of the US-China technology relationship don’t go away,” said Schmidt, who summed it up perfectly. ®