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USA Today: How Biden Should Confront China

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 The need to take a tough stance towards China is a rare point of agreement between Democrats and Republicans these days. This bilateral agreement began to emerge even before President Donald Trump took office, prompted by China's economic and technical alarm meeting with the United States and frustration over Beijing's trade and human rights policies. But the incumbent President Joe Biden and Congress need policies specific to China, not just tough ones.

Here are some things for new leaders and Congress to keep in mind:

Play a Long Game

Trump officials are well aware that aspects of the previous US policy towards China were ineffective - especially the unwillingness to deal with Beijing in trade and foreign policy. But leaders - and party leaders from both parties in Congress - have made the mistake of going too far. US policy today is to acquire any tool for co-operation against China - from pricing to regulating US technology exports - without first devising a sustainable strategy.

Consider the restrictions that prevent the US semiconductor industry from selling to Huawei, China's leader in 5G wireless technology, and other technology firms. The move has seen short-term success in weakening China's ability to hold the world leader in the implementation of 5G networks but also poses risks to US technology capabilities. Chinese and other foreign firms now have the incentive to "design" US products and intellectual property in their technological fields.

The result, if the United States is not aware, is that US semiconductor firms will lose the market share of the world - with the benefit of investing in cutting-edge technology - while Chinese and other foreign firms supply these products instead.

Export controls, such as financial sanctions and many other economic communication tools, work best when the United States works in partnership with its partners, such as the European Union and Japan. Leaders of Biden and Congress will need to combine the determination of Trump's approach with a plan that unites American relations.

Invest in Household Energy

The United States also needs to make the necessary funding to maintain its technological side. The key here should be to reverse the long decline in government funding (measured as a share of GDP) for basic science and research and development. Numerous studies have shown that government subsidies not only achieve scientific and medical success but also bring about a higher rate of economic recovery.

As suggested by two MIT economists, the United States can finance new facilities in red and other areas - away from traditional institutions, such as Silicon Valley - that start the local economy and reduce income inequality. Improving connectivity through the expansion of rural broadband and initiating a long-term improvement of critical infrastructure could also strengthen the US power while strengthening the economy.

Be Determined But Do Not Exaggerate

Subsequent leaders should avoid seeing China as a bogeyman behind every corner. Politicians point out almost all issues affecting China now as a national security threat. Others, such as the Chinese spies, certainly are. But when it is over, such arguments undermine US moral authority or otherwise contradict each other.

The legal risks of illegal acquisition of intellectual property have grown to be an unscrupulous demonstration of Chinese students and researchers in the STEM field in the United States, portraying them as tools of Beijing's plan to steal US high-tech technology. Law enforcement officials should continue to investigate allegations of illegal possession of the intellectual property, but public discourse needs to be weighed against the fact that US corporate and corporate institutions benefit from a pipeline of well-trained engineers and scientists from China. Most of them do not work for Chinese intelligence.

Similarly, some recent efforts to combat Chinese influence in the United States will do little but undermine American influence in China. Trump administration quietly suspends Fulbright scholarships - which pay Americans to teach and learn - in China and Hong Kong. Such programs deepen America's understanding of China at a time when such information is even more important than before.

Worse, hostile language about China's early handling of the coronavirus - as well as violent handles such as the "Chinese virus" - are likely to play a role in creating hate crimes against Asian Americans. 

Good Governance

While the United States was dominating the military and the economy, our political instability made the whole world wonder if we would ever be like that. The United States (like Europe) severely disrupted its response to the coronavirus epidemic while China, after the first steps, acted dramatically. The US presidential election in which the results were still contested and labeled "rigged" made our democratic parties look weak and represent Beijing's victory.

Competing with China will not cure our political divisions, but both parties must strive to show that the United States can govern itself fairly.

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