Democrats and Republicans Unite! At least against China.
This week, the US Senate passed the so-called Endless Frontier Act, a $ 250 billion investment in the development of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductor manufacturing and other industries. related to technology. The goal is to harness the combined power of the US public and private sectors to meet the technological challenges posed by China.
In its current form, it is the largest diversion of public funds to the private sector to achieve strategic goals in many decades. The details of this package and the Senate vote say a lot about U.S. foreign policy priorities and the bill’s chances of becoming law.
Why did Democrats and Republicans agree to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars? High-stakes technological competition with China is a threat both sides take seriously. Beijing is devoting historic sums of money to the development of artificial intelligence and quantum computing technologies that experts say will determine the balance of economic, political and military power in the 21st century.
Just as the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, the world’s first man-made satellite, spurred increased U.S. spending and new strategic thinking, Washington is finally heeding warnings that China has taken a big technological leap forward. Democrats and Republicans may disagree on which aspect of China’s rise to power concerns them most, but leaders of both parties see a threat to states’ competitiveness and national security. -United.
What’s in the invoice? It focuses primarily on technology, with $ 120 billion for research and development funding, $ 52 billion for domestic semiconductor production, and $ 20 billion for space programs. But he is also promoting new strategies to counter China’s global influence and punish its abuses in his country. For example, it authorizes new sanctions in response to China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, its use of forced labor in Xinjiang, its cyberespionage skills, and its intellectual property theft. The bill also commissions a new study into the origin of the pandemic and calls for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics by US officials – but not by US athletes.
What does this bill say about domestic competition policy with China? President Biden broke the news of the Senate appointment with a warning for the future: “As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind. America must maintain its position as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth. ” It is safe to assume that “other countries” primarily means China since the bill explicitly calls that country’s government “the greatest geopolitical and geoeconomic threat” to US foreign policy.
But it also shows that there is strong bipartisan support for the Biden administration’s position that the era of engagement with China is over. China’s growing power is attracting Washington’s attention, and its military expansion, human rights abuses, technological capabilities, and business practices ensure that there is something for everyone on Capitol Hill at to oppose.
China responded. An official statement says this bill is “full of Cold War thoughts and ideological prejudices.” It will now be easier for Xi to argue at home that the United States intends to curb China’s growth as a great power. U.S. officials counter that years of unfair trade practices by China and President Xi Jinping’s new aggressive foreign policy are responsible for the sharp deterioration in relations.
What happens next? The bill is now heading to the House of Representatives where its fate is to be determined. Media coverage rightly focuses on the scarcity of 68 Senate votes for any bill of this cost and ambition, but 32 senators voted against, and their reasoning highlights the partisan differences hidden under the bipartisan consensus. that could force a reshuffle in the lower house.
Thirty-one Republican senators opposed it. Some have said it costs too much. Others said it should include funding for border security. Former Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders voted No to protest the amount of money the bill would transfer from U.S. taxpayers to private sector companies without enough accountability for how the money is spent. Other Democrats warn that his aggressiveness may turn Cold War fears into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We won’t know until the fall how ambitious the final legislation will be, but the bipartisan Senate bill makes it clear that the US-China rivalry will only intensify.