Saturday, October 16, 2021

Unusually united US Senate passes bill to combat China tech expansion

A Beijing official has already hit back at the bill, saying it exaggerates any perceived threat from China.

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US Senate lawmakers have approved a massive spending plan to boost American technology research and production.

The measures come in the face of growing international competition, particularly from China, says the BBC.

A Beijing official hit back at the bill on Wednesday, saying it exaggerates any perceived threat from China.

The bill is a rare point of agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, which is evenly divided between them. Analysts say the vote shows how the two political parties are united on the need to counter Beijing’s economic and military ambitions.

Now the bill has to pass the House of Representatives before being signed into law.

Supporters say the package is one of the largest industrial bills in US history and the biggest investment in scientific research that the country has seen in decades.

“I believe that this legislation will enable the US to out-innovate, out-produce, and out-compete the world in the industries of the future,” Senate majority leader and co-sponsor of the bill Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.

It authorises roughly US$250 billion in funding for technology research, semiconductor development and manufacturing, as well as subsidies for robot makers and chipmakers to combat the shortage of computer chips worldwide.

The chip shortage has hit automobile production at a time of rebounding global demand, and bosses of big tech firms have told the BBC it could be two years before chip supply catches up.

The bill includes a number of China-specific provisions, including the prohibition of the social media app TikTok from being downloaded on US government devices.

The purchase of drones manufactured and sold by Chinese state enterprises would also be blocked under the legislation.

Chinese organisations engaged in cyber attacks or theft of US intellectual property from US firms would face sanctions too, once the bill is passed.

There have been signs of a thaw in relations between Beijing and Washington. In May, China and the US held virtual talks between trade negotiators in the first such meeting of the Biden presidency.

China’s commerce ministry said in early June that China and the US had agreed to restart normal communications, but on Wednesday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin suggested the bill could harm these efforts, saying it was “full of Cold War and zero-sum thinking and runs counter to the public aspiration in both countries to strengthen exchanges and cooperation”.

President Joe Biden praised the bill’s passage, saying, “It is long past time that we invest in American workers and American innovation. We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off.

“As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind.”

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