On August 9, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act. BillProvides$52 billion to support semiconductor manufacturing through subsidies and tax credits, with $200 billion to support scientific research in emerging technologies such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence. The bill is the end product in a long series of negotiationsDesignerTo enhance the manufacturing and technological capacity of the United States in preparation for competition with China.
In Washington, both parties declared the Chips and Science Act a major victory. President BidenCallIt’s a bill to ensure “world-leading innovation happens in America.” Several Republican senators, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), alsosupportedThe bill, even despite vociferous opposition from many right-wing members of Congress. In an ever-divided Washington caught up in bitter internal conflict, CHIPS and Science Act managed to slip in with surprising bipartisan support.
However, Washington should be keen to celebrate very early on. The CHIPS and Science Act is an excellent step in the right direction – but ending America’s investments in science and technology here would be a huge mistake. Whereas a $280 billion package would be bigStrengthenAmerica’s domestic research capacity and semiconductor manufacturing capacity likely won’t be enough to maintain the United States’ technological advantage through decades of competition with an increasingly powerful China.
In 2018, China announced the Made in China 2025 (MIC 2025) initiative. Made in China 2025 was a state-led effort toinvestBillions in key emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biopharmaceuticals while boosting China’s domestic high-tech manufacturing so that 70 percent of China’s critical technological parts are sourced locally. Basically, Made in China 2025 was Beijing’s attempt to reach global technological leadership,transcendThe technological superiority that the United States and its allies have long maintained.
The launch of Made in China 2025 has sparked massive global concern from companies and governments around the world, many of whom fear the consequences of China gaining a technological advantage over the United States. Military AnalystsafraidThat China’s technologically renewed military could take bolder and more aggressive steps against Taiwan or in the South China Sea, raising the risk of miscalculation. compWorryThat the Chinese government’s investment in scientific research will boost domestic Chinese technology companies, giving them a technological and business advantage over American companies in China and abroad. Many policy makers tooafraidThe use of new Chinese technology products in US or allied systems may lead to cyber attacks or espionage.
Backlash on Made in China 2025urgeBeijing has stopped using the term, but while China has abandoned the semantics of the plan, Beijing has neverabandonedThe plan itself. Since 2018, China has continued to equip the pump, and has invested billions in high-tech manufacturing,Including$1.4 trillion announced in 2020. Beijing is also busyincreasingIts annual funding for scientific research and development, which now ranks just below the United States in terms of its total annual funding for scientific research.
Aside from financial capital, Beijing is also keen to expand its advantages in human capital and data collection. The population of China is four times that of the United States andGraduationThere have been much more PhDs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than the United States in the past several years. Beijing is also keen onRecruitmentLeading scholars of Chinese origin through the Thousand Talents Program, which provides funding for such researchers to leave the West and return to China. Huge Chinese surveillance equipment has also been used forCollectingHuge amounts of data, enabling it to make great leaps in machine learning and computer vision research. Taken together, these efforts highlight China’s drive to gain global technological supremacy, which risks dire technological, economic, and political consequences for the West.
To meet this challenge, the CHIPS and Science bill alone is insufficient. By financial metrics alone, funding for the scientific bill pales in comparison to the huge investments that China continues to make each year. Moreover, the bill’s focus on semiconductors, while commendable, ignores the raw materials usedManufactureSemiconductors and other important technology components – rare earth elements. Supply Chains for Rare Earth ElementsbeIt is highly dependent on China, which reflects a significant national security risk as tensions between Washington and Beijing escalate.
Thus, for the United States and its allies to maintain their technological leadership through decades of competition with China, important reforms are needed. From a financial perspective, America should increase its investment in scientific research in emerging technologies such as biotechnology and artificial intelligence. Grant applications in such areasbeAlready very competitive, this increase could support a new wave of researchers to boost American innovation. America’s leaders should also use subsidies and tax breaks to boost domestic production of key rare earth minerals used in technology products. Such effortsWill beHelping secure US technology supply chains when tensions with Beijing make traditional supply chains from China more dangerous.
America’s leaders should also try to reconcile China’s advantages in human capital and data collection. From a human capital perspective, the United StatesShouldTake steps to fix the broken immigration system, especially byexpansionVisas available for highly skilled immigration andsimplificationRegulations for international students studying in the United States to become U.S. citizens. Many of these international studentslearnerIn top universities that are paid by American taxpayers and want to stay passionately – but American bureaucracy is permanent –accumulatedThe immigration system threatens to push these highly skilled immigrants and their scientific talents abroad, enriching other countries rather than the United States. America’s leaders should also foster partnerships between research institutions and technology companies to expand researchers’ access to data in the processinvestmentIn developing privacy protection (PP) techniques to ensure that the collection of this data does not compromise the privacy of individuals.
Of course, the CHIPS Act and the Science Act are still valuable legislation. But maintaining America’s technological advantage is a marathon, not a sprint. The United States must make the reforms it needs to compete for decades to come—otherwise, CHIPS and science may be remembered as little more than a band-aid for a major wound.
Sergio Imbrato is a lecturer in government at Harvard University, where he teaches grand strategy in international relations and US foreign policy. He is the author of “The Sovereign President” (Pisa University Press, 2015; in Italian), a monograph on the personalization of presidential politics in foreign affairs. Sarosh Nagar is a researcher at Harvard University’s Department of Government. His research analyzes the role of development assistance and economic interdependence in US and Chinese foreign policy in Asia. His work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and journals, including Harvard International Review, Journal of the American Medication Association (JAMA) Oncology, American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, and more.