USA's plan to decouple its tech with China lacks a strategy – report

The Schmidt hits the fan

The USA's policy of decoupling its technology industries from China lacks a strategy, a theory of success, and an understanding of how to achieve its ill-defined goals, according to a new paper by Jon Bateman from the thinktank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP).

"The United States cannot afford simply to muddle through technological decoupling, one of the most consequential global trends of the early twenty-first century," wrote Bateman, a former senior intelligence analyst, policy adviser and speechwriter at the US Department of Defense, in the document, titled "US China Technological 'Decoupling', a Strategy and Policy Framework."

Bateman acknowledges there is bipartisan support for measures controlling China's access to US tech, but contends that the issue of which strategic technologies should be controlled and to what degree, are left undefined.

"Where is the responsible stopping point – the line beyond which technology restrictions aimed at China do more harm than good to America?" asked Bateman, who also asserted that "without a clear strategy, the US government risks doing too little or – more likely – too much to curb technological interdependence with China."

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow advocated "sharper thinking" and "more informed debates" before criticizing the actions the US often does take, such as using jargon that doesn't convey much meaning (example "supply chain security") or silo-ing important decisions and leaving behind overall context.

"A strategy for technological decoupling should consider more than just tech-specific or China-specific concerns," wrote Bateman. "It should be rooted in a larger US grand strategy that reconciles decoupling with other national priorities, from international trade to domestic political stability to global climate change, that might be impacted directly or indirectly."

Bateman advocated a centrist strategy, one that "identifies the US-China tech relationship as complex and uncertain, with both zero-sum and non-zero-sum elements and mixed costs and benefits for both countries."

"A long list of policy aims is not the same as a strategy," said Bateman.

"The fact is that America has been technologically dominant for so long that some US leaders came to take if for granted," wrote former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in the paper's forward.

Schmidt described an enmeshed China and America whose relationship contained both interdependence and conflict that will have to continually renegotiate its relationship.

Google parent Alphabet was hit hard by the US placement of certain Chinese businesses on the US's entity list of firms with whom American companies could not trade. This cut Google's Play Store and other Google Mobile Services (GMS) from Huawei phones and tablets. At the time Huawei was the second-largest smartphone manufacturer globally, with every one of its cellphones running on Android. Google was later was denied an exemption from adhering to the embargo, while others, such as Microsoft, were given a pass – giving some credence to the notion that the policy has been uneven.

Bateman argues that developing a proper policy will require consideration of how the US aims to achieve several goals, such as maintaining a military edge over China, limiting espionage, preventing Chinese sabotage in a crisis, or countering IP theft.

Key strategies from Bateman do seem rather simple. For example, they include maintaining a military edge over China by modernizing US forces through measures like incorporating private sector innovations or designing new warfighting concepts for near-peer battle while beefing up cybersecurity in the military. However, he acknowledged that bureaucracy can get in the way of actually achieving these advancements.

"The coming wave of military-technological advances will likely produce a marathon competition that lasts many years or even decades," warned Bateman. He called technology controls that set back China's People Liberation Army "worthwhile," but called restrictions that degrade America's own technology base while only temporarily disrupting Chinese progress "counterproductive."

"The paradoxes of the US-China tech relationship are not going away," said Schmidt, who summed it up just right. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022