A new report warns that the US could lose its technological advantage over China by 2030 unless it strengthens in strategic sectors crucial to maintaining its advantages.
The report, titled “Mid-Decade Challenges to National Competitiveness,” was released this month by the congressional National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), an independent commission established in August 2018.
The commission is tasked with “examining the methodologies and means necessary to advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and related technologies to comprehensively address the national security and defense needs of the United States.”
The report begins by painting a stark picture if the US loses its technological competition with China. In this scenario, China will dominate the global economy and generate trillions of dollars in revenue from the development of next-generation technologies, which it uses as global policy leverage.
It is also claimed that China will use its success to justify and export its authoritarian system, with its digital platforms, surveillance technology and digital payments infrastructure designed to subvert democracies, support China’s political goals perceived as threatening Target people and refine your propaganda.
The report also outlines the various challenges the US faces in restoring its technological competitiveness.
These include restoring US technological-industrial capacity; Integrating US democratic values into AI governance; Development of technological-industrial strengths within a cooperative alliance agenda; translating technological advantages into military advantages; mastering new technologies to maintain information advantages over competitors; and the lack of a hub to coordinate US strengths in the commercial, academic, and government sectors for international competition.
The report stresses the need for a US master plan that capitalizes on the strengths of its public-private system while making a macroeconomic effort, but without emulating China’s merged, state-centric, authoritarian model.
Likewise, it calls for a techno-industrial strategy that promotes the technological spread of laboratories to markets while closing economic and national security gaps.
Finally, the report emphasizes that the US should steer AI systems judiciously and shape their development and use through the full range of regulatory and non-regulatory governance mechanisms.
The report states that the US and its allies must provide technological alternatives to China’s, which alternatives are more promising and more successful than the closed systems and technologies developed by authoritarian competitors.
On defense, the report calls for the development of an “Offset-X” strategy based on continued US asymmetric strengths and calls for the deployment of capabilities that China will struggle to match or duplicate.
It also says that the ability of US intelligence agencies to give policymakers a competitive edge will depend on their mastery of new technologies, such as AI, to integrate increasingly diverse all-domain intelligence.
The report also identifies the technologies that the US can leverage to increase its future competitiveness against China and other rivals. These technologies include AI, computing, networking, biotechnology, energy generation and storage, and smart manufacturing.
It concludes, “Whether the United States rises to the occasion and capitalizes on the promise of the coming wave of disruptive technologies will determine who celebrates the 21st century.”St Century.”
The report’s language is consistent with the Biden administration’s portrayal of the intensifying US-China rivalry as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism. However, such framing may be an attempt to ideologically camouflage overt and desperate attempts to halt the rise of a competitor.
In a 2021 article for the East Asia Forum, Professor Baogang He criticizes this narrative as an outdated and myopic Cold War approach that obscures rejection of US recognition of China’s promotion of the right to development.
Furthermore, from an ideological perspective, he points to the alleged superficiality of the Biden administration’s portrayal of the US-China rivalry as a struggle between autocracy and democracy, saying that China’s socialist approach aims to prevent domestic unrest rather than ideological allegiance to promote.
He also notes that China has helped democracies like Italy and Greece avoid financial collapse and points out that China’s growing partnership with Iran and Russia is being driven by US pressure rather than a shared ideology.
He also points out that by exaggerating the autocracy versus democracy narrative, the US risks pursuing an exclusionary approach that alienates states that do not want to choose between the US and China.
This potentially false dichotomous framing precludes US technological cooperation with China, which could have serious long-term consequences. The relationship between the two superpowers is one of the main factors driving the course of events in modern times.
Furthermore, the report’s recommendation of an Offset-X military strategy against China could be an implicit admission that the US has already lost some crucial advantages over its Chinese rival. Previous US and NATO countervailing strategies sought to negate the Soviet Union’s numerical and conventional military advantages through nuclear weapons and other advanced technologies.
Such framing may be true in some areas, such as hypersonic weapons, where US efforts to develop such have led to it seeking help from the private sector or taking a denial position, in this area its own Losing lead to China.
While the US may lose some military aspects, it may overemphasize the entire military aspect of its rivalry with China in its autocracy versus democracy narrative, with unjustified spillovers in technology areas.
In a 2021 Foreign Policy article, Michael Swaine states that, militarily, China cannot destroy the US without destroying itself. He also points out that the US still has overwhelming nuclear and conventional forces compared to China, and that the greater danger facing the US is overreacting militarily to China’s actions and policies in Asia, thereby alienating critical allies.
While the NSCAI report raises concerns that China could shape the global tech landscape to the detriment of the US, such fears may still be overblown.
Swaine notes that while some observers claim that China sets standards in critical technologies and installs its hardware around the world, standards setting is a highly competitive process and the US, Europe and Asia are responsible for large parts of the standards and der Standard- essential patents that underpin the global technology ecosystem.
He argues that there is no chance China can single-handedly enforce its tech standards, and that if China were to set its standards by force, the result would be a fragmented technology ecosystem that impoverishes all countries and does little to enhance China’s power to strengthen.
Regarding the export of standards, and by extension its political system, Swaine argues that China is targeting developing countries, not industrialized democracies like the US. His goal, Swaine says, is for the former to copy some aspects of China’s approach to legitimizing its system internationally and domestically, rather than ousting US power.
In summary, the NSCAI report may overlook the Biden administration’s stance: “We will work together wherever we can; we will fight where we must,” exaggerating the autocracy versus democracy narrative, overemphasizing military aspects, and ignoring an integrative approach that leverages China’s advances toward shared goals and the improvement of the human condition through technology.