The United States is falling behind China when it comes to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, according to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who told the Washington Free Beacon she is working on a package of legislative measures that would boost public-private partnerships to ensure the United States does not lose its competitive edge in these markets.
As China invests $1.4 trillion over the next five years to dominate the field of cutting-edge technologies, the United States must create its own plan to foster innovation in this area, McMorris Rodgers said. Her plan, which is garnering support among House Republicans, would increase federal research into new technologies and remove much of the bureaucratic red tape currently restraining the private sector. While the United States cannot compete by throwing money at the problem, it can eliminate many of the restrictions that have prevented the federal government from partnering with private tech startups already making inroads into these technologies.
“We will never outspend them, we will never out-subsidize these industries like the Chinese government plans to do,” McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Free Beacon.
Instead, Republicans aim to level the playing field with an unprecedented legislative package comprised of 15 bills that would force the federal government to identify the areas where it is lagging behind China and work with the private sector to spur growth. This includes beefing up American investments into A.I., facial recognition technology, blockchains, quantum computing, and unmanned delivery services—all areas where China is outpacing the United States due to massive investments.
The legislative package is one of the largest and most comprehensive currently circulating on Capitol Hill. It is part of a larger push by Republican members in the House and Senate to combat China’s massive investment in cutting edge tech at a time when the world is becoming increasingly dependent on the communist regime.
The private sector has become more attractive to the federal government as bloated budgets and bureaucratic regulations slow its foray into a range of fields. These types of partnerships proved successful during the weekend when the United States launched its first man-based mission into space in nearly a decade. NASA partnered with tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX to make that mission a reality.
Some Democrats, however, have already balked at the GOP plan, citing concerns about privacy and the potential for civil rights abuses by government authorities. They maintain that these technologies could be used for unethical purposes—much in the way China has used them to solidify its police state and spy on dissidents. If the GOP does not find a way to compromise with its colleagues in the Democrat-controlled House, the bills could be dead on arrival.
Nine of the bills included in the GOP package identify new fields of research where the federal government can help spur private-sector innovation. They include A.I., 3D printing, facial recognition technology, and other new technologies still in development. All of the bills would require the Federal Trade Commission and Commerce Department to identify roadblocks preventing innovation in these fields and then create a plan to reduce bureaucratic challenges, such as restrictions on interstate commerce.
Another set of bills seeks to create protections for sensitive U.S. data to ensure the Chinese government does not intercept them, which comes on the heels of reports about China’s efforts to steal sensitive U.S. research and infiltrate the American academic system.
Other legislative efforts would require the federal government to assess its partnerships with tech startups and other smaller private businesses focusing on fields of interest.
McMorris Rodgers said the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated concerns about China’s influence on the global stage, exposing the United States’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Republican lawmakers also want the United States to directly combat China’s weaponization of new technologies that allow it to promote misinformation. One of the bills in the legislative package directs the Federal Trade Commission to determine how A.I. can be used to combat propaganda, such as deepfakes—videos altered to make it appear as if people are saying and doing things they are not.