By Doug Kelly

In the same week Intel Corporation is breaking ground on two high-end microchip fabrication centers (fabs) in Ohio, China’s President Xi is demanding even greater tech innovation in China. This juxtaposition of events not only illustrates the high-stakes competition between the two countries, but also serves as yet another urgent warning to lawmakers on the necessity of embracing, fostering, and accelerating U.S. innovation.

Intel’s $20 billion investment in central Ohio will build two massive new manufacturing facilities. Scheduled to be operational by 2025, the fab complex will produce leading-edge chips to “meet the growing demand for advanced semiconductors and help power a new generation [of innovation]” for America. More than 20,000 jobs will be created by the investment, with 3,000 of those being permanent jobs, 7,000 in construction, and 10,000 jobs created indirectly. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said the Ohio fab is key to developing a “Silicon Heartland” which, combined with Silicon Valley and other local U.S. innovation hubs, can continue to maintain America’s technological advantage.

But 6,700 miles away, after a high-level meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), President Xi this week called for a stronger national effort to pool China’s resources – a so-called “whole nation system” – to overcome the U.S.’ technology advantage. This new effort will supplement previous five-year strategic plans by the CCP in 5G wireless, high-end manufacturing, chip development, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and advanced weaponry. Experts call China an “emerging tech giant” that has shown “it can be a leading innovator both globally and domestically.” In fact, in August 2022, the largest chipmaker in China announced a major breakthrough in its chip manufacturing process to create a more powerful, much smaller processor.

This demand by China’s president for faster innovation should serve as a rallying cry for U.S. lawmakers to partner more closely with private sector tech leaders to accelerate American ingenuity. Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) did this by knocking down barriers to get Intel to locate in his state. President Biden did this as well by pushing heavily for the recently passed CHIPS+ bill, which will invest billions in the strategic technologies of the future.

While lawmakers at every level have a critical role to play in this geopolitical competition, some in Congress are fighting to pass anti-innovation bills that, instead of unleashing our private tech industry, would handcuff it with short-sighted, onerous new regulations that dictate how our tech companies can compete, who they can compete with, and how their products should function. Worse yet, all of these bills would hand a permanent innovation edge to China at the expense of the United States and our allies.

Tech isn’t just another sector – it’s the very backbone of our national security, our economic prosperity, and our values. So, it matters greatly which country builds the future. Do we want it to be China, which uses technology to monitor, surveil, and control their citizens while censoring free speech? Or do we want the leader to be the U.S., which values liberty, expression, association, and openness?

Over the past few decades, short-sighted policies from Washington surrendered our manufacturing edge to China. As five million manufacturing jobs drained away – many to China – thousands of communities across the country felt the sting. Congress can’t make this same mistake again with technology.