By Doug Kelly, CEO of the American Edge Project
The fierce technology race between the United States and China is unlike any other competition America and its allies have faced – not the 1960s space race with Russia, nor the economic competition of the 1980s with Japan. Instead, China is a formidable full-spectrum competitor to the United States, with a strong economy, a powerful military, and a competing model of governance. Because technology is the bedrock for so much of society, this tech race is now a winner-takes-all challenge that bestows on the victor a decades-long geopolitical advantage – one that will be difficult for the losing side to overcome.
My favorite coach, the great Vince Lombardi, lived by the motto that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” This especially applies to the tech race with China. Fortunately, the core elements of Lombardi’s playbook for winning – a good offense, a strong defense, and avoiding unforced errors – serve as a useful strategic guide to U.S. policymakers and their European allies’ in how to emerge victorious in this critical competition.
A good offense in the tech race entails accelerating American innovation by investing in key strategic technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, cyber defenses, and extended reality. To build our resiliency against disruptions due to pandemics or authoritarian schemes, we need to onshore or friend-shore critical supply chain components like microchips. Additionally, promoting America’s vision of an open and accessible internet worldwide can help ensure the widespread dissemination of ideas, information, speech, and our values of freedom and democracy.
On the defensive side, it is crucial to thwart China’s espionage and cyber-hacking efforts, which collectively steal more than $500 billion annually in technology and intellectual property (IP) from the U.S.. We must also aggressively counter the spread of “digital authoritarianism.” This involves checking China’s efforts to export its version of the internet and technology that is used for censorships, control, and surveillance.
Finally, we must avoid unforced errors that could surrender the West’s tech edge to China. We’ve seen this in America with anti-innovation bills and damaging overreaches by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and some state legislatures. The European Union (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) are also targeting America’s tech leaders with discriminatory laws and regulations such as the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), and reactionary opposition to important mergers and acquisitions that would boost America’s tech leadership.
In fact, in just the past few months, as American innovators launched powerful, game-changing new AI tools that give us an edge over China, Western lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are rushing to over-regulate this new technology in its infancy, potentially crippling its development and handing a lasting advantage to the Chinese Communist Party government and military.
The stakes are so high and so urgent because technology isn’t just another sector. Rather, it’s the very backbone of our national security, our economy, and our values. The triumphant nation will gain trillions in economic value and secure its position as the most formidable global superpower for decades to come. It matters greatly which country, and which set of values, builds the future.
John F. Kennedy once said,
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,… because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
America’s innate desire to compete and win has always been the driving force behind our greatness. To ensure America stays ahead in this decisive decade, our lawmakers must stay focused on winning the race for innovation and not the race for regulation. Our national security, economy, values, and frankly our future, depend on it.