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China Daily Global / 2021-06 / 11 / Page003

US misses out by viewing Beijing as 'competition'

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-06-11 00:00

The US Senate's tech investment bill is focused on competing with China, but some experts say there is more to be gained working together in technology than competing with each other.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act, which would invest approximately $250 billion over the next five years in technology and research to boost competitiveness against China.

President Joe Biden "applauded" the Senate vote and said in a statement that it would make "generational investments" in research and development and advanced manufacturing and "empower" the US to build its artificial intelligence, computer chips, lithium batteries and other "vital technologies".

"America's desire to maintain global leadership in science and technology should stand on its own merit and should not have to be driven by perceived rivalry with China," said George Koo, a retired international business adviser in California's Silicon Valley and a political analyst who frequently writes on US-China relations.

"Biden and Washington seem to believe that engagement is only in one direction and only benefits China. That may have been true 40 years ago, but China has made great progress and is now ahead of the US in certain fields," Koo told China Daily.

To illustrate the point, he said that cooperation enabled Apple to "design in California and assemble in China", a strategy so successful that the company is now worth more than $2 trillion. "Had Apple designed and assembled in the US, the high costs would have limited its sales and stunted the profitability and growth of the company," Koo said.

"By disengagement, both sides will no longer benefit from learning from each other. China generates eight times more STEM(science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates that are better trained and better motivated. On a pure competition basis, the US will lose ... At this point, it will take more than throwing money at research to reverse America's decline," he said.

After World War II, much of America's civilian technology seedings were spinoffs from defense and space research and development, with semiconductors, global positioning systems and the internet as some of the most notable examples, he said.

Then the US began to lose its edge because political leaders lost their faith in science and technology and were reluctant to commit funds for basic research, he said.

"None of the leaders of any national stature have expressed any concern that the American school system is failing to teach and graduate students with the training to compete," he continued.

The Senate's tech investment bill came after Biden's American Jobs Plan, which calls for funding investments to "out-compete" China. The plan views China as one of "the great challenges of our time".

"The US has historically viewed its relationship with China through the lens of power. And this has been true regardless of whether the White House occupant is a Democrat or a Republican," said Peter Leroe-Munoz, general counsel and vice-president of innovation and technology at Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"Now, as China and the US continue to drift apart, each views the other as a competitor across several different arenas. Technology is certainly the most obvious," Leroe-Munoz said. "I think there is more to be gained working together than there is viewing China solely as a competitor."


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