OPINIONS US funding act for technology really deployment for Cold War

OPINIONS

US funding act for technology really deployment for Cold War

China Daily

19:56, June 09, 2021

The national flags of China and the United States (Photo: Xinhua)

In proudly tweeting "Let the record show that, at this moment, we stood united in our fight against the Chinese Communist Party," Senator Todd Young effectively declared Washington's intention to drag the world into a new Cold War.

Had it not been for the Indiana senator's tweet, it is likely that few would have drawn a link between the US Innovation and Competition Act passed by the US Senate on Wednesday and the National Defense Education Act of 1958.

Although the act is framed as a job-creating and strategic imperative that does not disguise the fact that it is "industry policy" that will provide $52 billion for the semiconductor industry and $195 billion in R&D funding. Although it still needs to pass the House of Representatives before reaching the desk of President Joe Biden, that seems a foregone conclusion given Washington is convulsed with similar anxiety to that it experienced when the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite. That was a shock to its system that spurred the US to introduce the earlier act to ensure that it had "trained manpower of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States".

The new Sputnik moment, which should perhaps be known as the Huawei moment, given the company has become the lightning rod for US fears, has triggered the move to increase US funding in key sectors such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, computer chips, lithium batteries and robotics.

Even though Biden did not name any country in his statement on the act, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know which country he had in mind when he said that "We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off".

But the $250 billion the Senate is urging the government to cough up to ensure the US maintains its position "as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth" will only further distort and hinder research and development endeavors. The grip the US has tightened on its chip exports has already disturbed the global supply chains of many industries.

While bragging about his personal success in hatching such an act, Young is simply revealing how lacking in sense and foresight many US lawmakers are, as the act will prove to be nothing but a doomed and expensive failure if it is aimed at keeping the US at the top of the tech pile by isolating it from the global technology chains.

Indeed, trying to fragment global technology collaborations would be damaging to all, as those advancing science and technology reach new heights and see further by standing on the shoulders of others.

So rather than empowering the US "to discover, build, and enhance tomorrow's most vital technologies right here in the United States" as the US president claimed, it will merely reinforce how resistant the US is to the pull of the future.

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