WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is divided on how to limit China’s access to US technology because it wants to find ways to protect national security without damaging the US industry.
President Trump and many of his senior advisers have viewed China’s technological ambitions as a threat to national security and want to limit the types of technology that the US sells overseas. But the plan has met with strong opposition from some inside the government. They believe that too many restrictions may be counterproductive and damage the US industry.
This debate highlights that there are still many unresolved issues in Trump’s trade war with China. The president announced this month a plan to sign a “first-phase” trade agreement that would require China to buy more US agricultural products and agree to provide protection for some US technology in exchange for a US moratorium on new tariffs.
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The unsigned agreement has eased tensions between the two countries, but concerns about Beijing’s economic ambitions still exist. This concern also poses greater challenges as the United States considers measures to ensure that domestic companies dominate the next generation of technology.
In the past year, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce has been trying to figure out which emerging technologies will pose a threat to US security.
These restrictions are designed to prevent new security threats. For example, a 3D printer can make weapons on the battlefield, so there is no need to ship them. Artificial intelligence can decode encryption that was previously unbreakable. Robots can be monitored from space, and organelles can generate cell tissue for soldiers injured in war.
Last year, Congress passed a law requiring new controls on emerging technologies. But the time it takes to decide which technologies should be regulated has exceeded expectations and has caused an unpleasant conflict within the government.
Some government officials, as well as many in the business and scientific communities, assert that too strict restrictions threaten to push research overseas, thereby weakening the business that originally brought technological advantages to the United States. But people who criticize China say that Beijing is a key security threat that must be addressed. These people include several Trump politically appointed officials.
“There is a clear debate within the government.
One is to have a broad response to China’s technology acquisition and development strategy, and the other is to surgically limit those who have very specific technology in China. The latter wants to go back to the previous treatment. China’s approach goes up,” said Michael R. Wessel, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, who advocates more comprehensive controls.
An official from the Bureau of Industry and Security said the agency is expected to announce a preliminary list of technology export restrictions next month, including quantum computing, 3D manufacturing, and an algorithm that is instructive for artificial intelligence. Although these restrictions are only the beginning, they are not enough to satisfy the president’s hawks advisers.
Some analysts say the debate goes beyond any specific technology, including a broader debate, from the Congress Hall to the White House, all talking about how to deal with the rise of China and how to revise US policy. Although many in Washington see Beijing as the largest long-term competitor, it is also the largest trading partner of the United States and is critical to industries such as agriculture and manufacturing.
“This is not just a debate within the Department of Commerce,” said Derek M. Scissors, a resident of the American Enterprise Institute. “This is a struggle between industry and Congress.”
Those who oppose comprehensive controls say that trade and the technological developments it promotes actually give the United States a security advantage, including information and income that can be used for further research.
Business leaders and researchers say that too broad a rule may put pressure on parts or knowledge industries that rely on free trade around the world, such as developers of driverless cars or biomaterials. Such restrictions may encourage US companies to move research facilities to countries that do not have export controls.
“You can’t do science with walls,” said Toby Smith, vice president of policy at the Association of American Universities. “If security considerations dominate the dialogue, we may lose our scientific leadership.”
Google (Google), GM (General Motors), Microsoft (Microsoft), Toyota (Toyota) and Raytheon (Raytheon) and other companies have urged the government to narrow the scope of control as far as possible, so as not to disturb their global competitiveness.
In a letter of submission submitted in January this year, these companies believe that many emerging technologies, such as machine learning and quantum computing, have been formed in foreign companies and research universities, and strict restrictions may ultimately jeopardize US technology development and the state. Safety.
“In the final analysis, foreign countries use US technology products much better than the United States is forced to use foreign products for US national and economic security,” Qualcomm wrote in the letter.
Facebook believes that these restrictions may undermine the ability of US companies to develop technology and “may slow down the pace of innovation, making it difficult for the US to hire and retain top researchers.”
The areas of export control are not only in China but also in Russia and other countries. But what triggered the bipartisan in Washington was Beijing’s efforts to control advanced technology.
As part of the “Made in China 2025”, China has developed a leading industry of the future (such as self-driving cars and biomedical) program. In some advanced technology fields, China has been keeping pace with the United States, and its weapons and equipment are becoming more and more advanced.
Some of China’s technology is obtained through domestic development or legal investment. But US officials said there are some technologies through cyberattacks, espionage or theft of unfair economic practices or forcibly acquired.