US Senate passes sweeping bill to address China tech threat

0
171
Lawmaker warns of the dire consequences of not funding research to keep up with China. (AP pic)

Reuters

WASHINGTON: The US Senate voted 68-32 on Tuesday to approve a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology.

The desire for a hard line in dealings with China is one of the few bipartisan sentiments in the deeply divided US Congress, which is narrowly controlled by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats.

The measure authorises about US$190 billion for provisions to strengthen US technology and research — and would separately approve spending US$54 billion to increase US production and research into semiconductors and telecommunications equipment, including US$2 billion dedicated to chips used by automakers that have seen massive shortages and made significant production cuts.

The bill must pass the House of Representatives to be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law. It is not clear what legislation in the House will look like or when it might take it up.

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.464.0_en.html#goog_276318879 about:blank Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the measure, warned of the dire consequences of not funding research to keep up with China.

“If we do nothing, our days as the dominant superpower may be ending. We don’t mean to let those days end on our watch. We don’t mean to see America become a middling nation in this century,” Schumer said.

Senator Todd Young, a Republican co-author, said the bill “is not only about beating the Chinese Communist Party, (it) is about using their challenge to become a better version of ourselves through investment in innovation”.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said the funding could result in seven to 10 new US semiconductor plants.

General Motors Co said the legislation “represents an important step to address the semiconductor shortage that continues to impact US automotive manufacturing.”

Some critics have likened the Senate funding effort to China’s high-tech industrial development push, dubbed “Made in China 2025”, which long irked the US.

The bill also seeks to counter Beijing’s growing global influence through diplomacy, by working with allies and increasing US involvement in international organisations after Republican former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.