Stop obsessing about China — we need to start focusing on our own best assets

Recent high-level Sino-US talks in Anchorage appear to have strengthened the prospect of rapidly intensifying technological competition between the United States and China. 5G wireless is and will undoubtedly continue to be a central feature of this race.

To outperform the United States, we need a national strategy not only to develop the architecture to be a world leader in next-generation 5G technologies, but also to strengthen our ability to move to 6G later in this decade. China even now seems to be making plans for future breakthroughs in this area.

We need three guiding principles:

  • Develop and strengthen a strategy for the key US internal forces in a way that increases the innumerable competitive advantages of our country.
  • We recognize that we are facing a great, energetic competitor with a long-term coherent national vision and strategic decades-long goals; we develop our own long-term multi-annual strategic plan.
  • Use our advanced technology capabilities to strengthen our infrastructure – and make 5G part of it. 5G wireless technology can be a powerful tool for achieving America’s competitive advantage in a way that not only allows us to compete more effectively with China, but also increases the number and quality of home jobs and gives Americans more access to the advantages of modern technologies.

To many observers, it seems strange that while many Americans in recent years have seemed preoccupied with China as a technology competitor, the American press and political narrative until recently focused so little on what America can do internally to significantly improve its own capabilities. advanced technologies of the 21st century. The impressive political support that the Agency for Advanced Defense Research Projects (DARPA), the National Science Foundation, and NASA have supported in recent decades does not seem to provide much evidence. Where is the high value previously given by the federal government to support research and development at an early stage? And where is the public support from earlier years for advanced science?

China is the strongest competitor so far, in the widest range of modern technologies that the United States has encountered since World War II. He is or aims to become a leader in many of the world’s 21st century technologies and certainly has the brainpower and drive to do so.

But the United States has great assets and should not accept the story that it cannot at least match or surpass China’s competitive strengths in many areas – or that it can only prevail by trying to suppress China’s rise, which it probably cannot. do anyway. In addition, employment to this end can divert us from focusing significantly more on increasing our own competitiveness. It is our inner talents, aspirations and innovative strengths that will largely determine the outcome of the future competition.

The United States needs much more robust policies in many areas of technology to succeed. One specific and critical area of ​​potential future technology leadership is 5G.

A successful technological strategy involves adopting and using the best and brightest of our country and the rest of the world. Another requirement is to provide much greater government support for advanced, cutting-edge research and development, as has been the case in key sectors in recent decades. This must be done as part of a sustainable strategy of several decades through a long-term approach based on investment in both people and technology.

5G technology has become a litmus test for those who claim that America is lagging behind China. The American story is busy with Huawei and the original generation of network equipment that now dominates. In response, we supported Huawei’s few remaining global competitors and even explored the possibility of closer integration of two leading European companies with major US technology companies. Their benefits so far have been limited by the significant investment that Chinese companies have made in highly integrated solutions and the government support of several of these companies, which has allowed them to price their bids to gain market share.

Huawei is certainly a great company, but its approach is not the only one possible. We now have the unique, immediate opportunity to change the game in favor of American companies that have long-standing leadership in areas that will be critical as wireless networks evolve to what is likely to be an entirely new architecture. Innovative technologies are on the rise in the United States, including the transition to software-defined networks (SDNs) and open radio network (ORAN) architectures. US companies are already designing technologies based on the cloud, software and silicon, which could make first-generation 5G networking equipment much less dominant in the future.

These new cloud networks are likely to be more open, run on general-purpose computing platforms, and be able to grow faster and be more flexible. President BidenJoe BidenBiden’s prediction of Afghanistan’s withdrawal raises doubts Trump X-Factor in the race for governor of Virginia Trump says he will visit the southern border soon MORE ▼The focus on building US manufacturing and jobs would be boosted by supporting, through useful regulations and substantial funding, these types of technologies and thus generating stronger competition with China as well as other energetic countries.

America’s friends and allies will find it easier to align with our interests if our strategy shifts from simply trying to block Huawei to an innovation-based one that allows the United States and other Western companies to lead the way. effective products in areas like 5G lowest price. Instead of seeking the support of friends and allies for trade battles with China based on tariffs and similar measures, we can work together on a few more positive initiatives when we have common interests in competing with China, or even find common ground with Beijing, where interests converge. The aim is to present other countries with opportunities for the 21st century that serve as stable alternatives to China in some areas of advanced technology. Such a strategy must recognize whether you like it or not, China is an extremely powerful economy and will remain a great technological power and trading partner for most countries in the world for a very long time.

Our challenge is to mobilize our own forces to meet the competitive challenges we face abroad – and to give our economy a technological impetus that benefits more Americans – with a level of national commitment, which has served us so well in the past.

Robert Hormats is a managing director of Tiedemann Advisors, a New York-based financial firm. He was Deputy Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment, 2009-13; senior employee of Goldman Sachs from 1982-2009; Assistant Secretary of State, 1981-82, and former Ambassador and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, 1979-81. As senior economics adviser to three White House national security advisers, from 1969 to 1977, he helped oversee the opening of the United States to China. Follow him on Twitter @BobHormats.