By Doug Kelly, CEO of American Edge 

America’s global technology leadership is under a multi-front attack. Last week, as the European Union (EU) announced tough new restrictions primarily on American technology companies, China announced the creation and deployment of a new advanced microchip. This week, as the U.S. Department of Justice begins an antitrust lawsuit against one of America’s largest innovators, Congress will hold hearings on how to regulate artificial intelligence (AI) tools being developed by American tech companies. Given this three-continent challenge to American innovators, it’s important to keep five things in mind, especially as we head full-speed into the 2024 election season. 

  1. America And China Are In A High-Stakes, No-Holds Barred Competition For Global Tech Leadership: The speed, power, and ubiquitous nature of technology will provide the winning country outsized geopolitical influence and military and economic advantages for decades to come. As such, it matters greatly which country builds the future, because America and China have two distinct sets of values, especially when it comes to technology. The U.S.’s version is open, accessible, and promoting of freedom and expression, while China’s uses its technology for censorship, oppression, and surveillance.
  2. China Is Pulling Out All The Stops To Win The Tech Race: China is executing a three-part plan to win the technology race. First, it’s investing trillions of dollars in the strategic technologies of tomorrow –AI, quantum computing, 5/6 G wireless, and advanced semiconductors. Second, through advanced hacking and spy networks, China steals $500 billion annually in technology and intellectual property to expedite its tech growth and military modernization efforts. Third, China seeks to make the world increasingly dependent on its technology for geopolitical and economic leverage.
  3. Policies That Undermine American Innovators Undercut Our Ability To Compete With China: To foil China’s ambitions, America and her allies must work together in a coordinated manner that accelerates Western technology innovation. But many Western policymakers are taking the exact opposite approach and undermining innovation, especially American tech companies. Whether its expanded antitrust policies, politically motivated lawsuits, excessive regulations like the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), restrictions on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), stifling emerging technologies like AI, or other anti-tech industry activity, all have the same result – undermining America’s ability to compete with China, while handing Beijing an unearned advantage.
  4. Unlike Many Policymakers, Voters Are Concerned About The Growing Threat Of China’s Tech Ambitions: On both sides of the aisle and on both sides of the Atlantic, voters are keenly aware of the threats posed by China’s technology ambitions. Recent polling shows:
    • Voters have an overwhelmingly negative view of China: A Gallup survey found just 15 percent of U.S. voters hold a positive view of China, down 38 points since 2018 – and the lowest level in more than four decades. 
    • Both U.S. and EU voters oppose hurting their own tech sectors: A recent survey of U.S. and EU voters by the American Edge Project found that 80 percent of U.S. and EU voters agreed we must unite against increased technology threats from China and Russia. They also oppose overregulating their own technology sectors, hurting their ability to compete with China’s technology sector (87% in U.S., 78% in Europe).
    • Being anti-tech is an electoral risk for candidates: New data from a critical Presidential primary state shows being anti-tech is a vote loser for candidates. In fact, seventy-four percent (74%) of GOP primary voters are less likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supports breaking up large U.S. tech companies and handing the advantage to China, including 59% who are much less likely. 
  5. Artificial Intelligence Is A Key Ingredient For America To Win The Tech Race: Because AI is such a powerful, transformational technology, it can help accelerate American innovation in other areas. A recent report by PwC estimates the global economic effect of AI to be $14 trillion by 2030 and many believe its impact could be “bigger than the internet itself.” But if regulators in Washington or Europe tie the hands of U.S. AI innovators, especially in the earliest stages of this technology, we run the risk of falling behind in AI to China, and surrendering both tech leadership and trillions of dollars in economic gain. 

We are at a pivotal movement in the tech race against China. The decisions Western leaders make today regarding technology – to accelerate or undermine innovation, to embrace or break up tech companies, to think strategically or surrender to sloganeering – will determine which country leads the future. The freedom-loving world is counting on us to get it right.