Home » Op-Ed: Will Washington inadvertently help China win the technology race?

Op-Ed: Will Washington inadvertently help China win the technology race?

by, Doug Kelly is CEO of the American Edge Project
Doug Kelly

The United States and China are engaged in a high-stakes battle to build and master the technologies of the future. The winner will achieve unprecedented national security, as well as sizable economic and trade benefits. The loser will be at a decided disadvantage for decades to come. But if Washington lawmakers enact a series of anti-innovation bills, they will not only undercut the competitiveness of the U.S.’s domestic tech industry, but they will inadvertently assist China’s quest to surpass the U.S. as the global tech leader.

Now a new study by the Lexington Institute, in partnership with the American Edge Project, documents the consequences of falling behind China, saying it “could be profound and have far-reaching security, economic, and political implications…If China wins the race for the technologies of the future, it will erode long-standing U.S. military advantages, weaken the U.S. economy, undermine American freedoms, and be an assault on Western democratic values across the globe.”

Make no mistake: our geopolitical foes – especially China – are working hard to supplant America as the global tech and innovation leader. In fact, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is investing tens of billions of dollars annually to boost its tech capabilities and will soon surpass the research and development (R&D) spending levels of the U.S.

But these anti-innovation bills would be a self-inflicted wound in our race against China. These strategic technologies of tomorrow – artificial intelligence (AI), ultra-fast quantum computing, next generation communications like 5/6G, advanced cybersecurity, and similar game-changing innovations – demand the most brilliant scientists, programmers, and engineers in the world, take years to develop, and require tens of billions of dollars in up-front investment (and significant early-stage losses). America’s largest private sector tech companies are the only ones with the talent, capital, and expertise to ensure the U.S. wins this competition.

Instead of targeting the U.S. tech industry with anti-innovation legislation that will benefit our foreign adversaries, Congress should pass laws that accelerate domestic tech innovation. For three decades, the U.S. private sector has been the driver for investment and innovation in America, with two-thirds of R&D investment coming from commercial entities. But anti-innovation bills would damage private sector R&D spending: one study found that the immediate cost of these bills would be $300 billion, resulting in fewer resources available to fund innovation.

These bills would also hurt the growing tech industry in the Bluegrass State, which employs more than 98,000 people and contributes nearly $8 billion to the state’s GDP. Anti-innovation legislation will hurt Kentucky’s jobs, small businesses, consumers, as well as its public pension holders – teachers, police officers, and firefighters. One analysis found that 482,000 Kentucky pensioners could be harmed — losing $1,840 in benefits each. The overall long-term loss for Kentucky pension holders could reach over $891 million.

Voters get what’s at stake. A recent poll found that 2022 midterm voters want elected officials to focus on inflation and the cost of living, national security, jobs, and health care. In fact, 89 percent had concerns that the unintended negative consequences of these bills could threaten our national security and economic competitiveness.

United States Senator Rand Paul recently raised his concerns about the negative impact of these bills, saying, “Yesterday’s innovations would likely have been prevented by today’s antitrust proposals … Rather than pursue even stronger antitrust laws, Congress should allow the free market to thrive where consumers, not the government, decide how big a company should be.”

America is in a tough battle for global leadership, and technological advancement is increasingly linked to geopolitical power. Any major change in policy towards U.S. technology and its innovation leaders needs to be thoroughly reviewed for its immediate harm to national security and future impact on our global leadership position. Because the U.S. must win this competition against China – the free world is counting on us.

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