By Doug Kelly, CEO of the American Edge Project (606 words)

Yesterday, the world’s two biggest dictators – China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin – sat side-by-side and pledgedto stand guard over the world order based on international law.” 

One does not need to be a foreign policy expert to understand that neither man cares about America’s interests, that freedom across the globe is threatened by their growing partnership, and that there is a renewed urgency for U.S. policymakers to ensure America wins the innovation battle against China, because technology is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal against autocratic ambitions.

Making International Law A “Values-Free Zone”

The very idea that Russia and China care about international law is laughable. Western values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law serve as the basic foundation of international institutions. Yet both Russia and China have repeatedly violated international laws and treaties, including invading and occupying sovereign counties; committing massive human rights violations; trafficking arms to rogue regimes; conducting cyberattacks and hacking; and illegally claiming territory that belongs to other countries. 

Just last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes involving child abductions. President Xi visited him anyway. In reality, these authoritarians want to remake international law into a “value-free zone” where the human ideals of justice, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law have no place.

The Importance of Technology to China’s Global Ambitions

China is intent on becoming the world’s biggest superpower by 2040. Its “friendship without limits” partnership with Russia is just one strategy. It’s other core strategy is to “win the battle“ in strategic technologies against the United States. To make China the global technology and innovation leader, Beijing is executing a relentless, decades-long three-part plan that includes: 1) building up its domestic technology capabilities in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, 5/6G wireless, and high-tech manufacturing; 2) stealing up to $500 billion each year in American technology and intellectual property; and 3) making the world increasingly depending on China’s technology and supply chains because dependency gives them economic and political leverage against the West. 

China is making great technological gains so far: A new report, published by the respected Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), examined 2.2 million data points for strategically important technologies. It found China has surged ahead of America in 37 of 44 categories of critical technologies, and in some cases China is approaching a near-dominant position in that technology.

How American Needs to Respond to the China Tech Competition

Technology isn’t just another economic sector for America and her allies: it’s the very backbone of our collective national security, our economic competitiveness, and the advancement of our shared values at home and abroad. The country with the better technology and the bigger innovation breakthroughs gains both a military and economic advantage. 

That means American policymakers must make our technology competition with China “the central organizing principle for U.S. economic and technology policy.” This requires a national, bipartisan commitment that extends through multiple administrations. Key priorities include: 1) accelerating American innovation through investments and smart policies; 2) thwarting China’s espionage efforts; 3) re-shoring or friend-shoring critical supply chain items; 4) extending America’s version of an open and accessible internet more widely across the globe, and 5) aggressively countering the spread of “digital authoritarianism.” This agenda is ambitious but will best protect the national security and economic prosperity of America and her allies, and the values we hold dear.

The stakes are high in our competition with China and the world is counting on us to get it right. Because it matters greatly which country – and which set of values – builds the future.

Doug Kelly is the CEO of the American Edge Project, a coalition of nearly two dozen organizations dedicated to advancing and protecting American technology and innovation.