Face to China, the United States will align the dollars. In a rare moment of union between Democrats and Republicans, the US Senate adopted a bill providing for ambitious investments in science and technology, presented as a “historic” text to counter the economic threat from China and its model. “Authoritarian”.
This plan earmarks more than 170 billion dollars for research and development, aiming in particular to encourage companies to produce semiconductors in the United States, today mainly manufactured in Asia. A global shortage is hitting many key sectors, from automotive to communications, illustrating the strategic stake of this production. The text was approved by 68 votes to 32 in the Senate and must now be adopted definitively, on a date that has not yet been set, by the House of Representatives before being promulgated by Joe Biden.
China, at economic war with the United States since the Trump era, is one of the few subjects on which the Democratic president is inscribed in the continuity of his Republican predecessor. And which has a broad consensus in Congress. “If we do nothing, our days as the dominant superpower could end,” warned Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer just before the vote. “And that is why this text will be remembered as one of the greatest successes achieved between Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate in recent history. “
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This bill “paves the way for the largest investment in science and technology for generations,” he explained earlier. “Whoever wins the race for the technologies of the future”, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, “will be the world economic leader”. And this nation “will shape the world in its image,” he continued, with a warning aimed directly at Chinese leader Xi Xinping. “Do we want this image to be democratic? Or do we want an authoritarian image, like the one President Xi would like to impose on the world? “
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” Unfair competition “
Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lamented that the plan left measures “aside” but ultimately voted in favor. “From critical supply chains to intellectual property to counterintelligence, it tackles key topics that will help define our strategic foundations for decades to come,” he said. This investment project “offers the United States the opportunity to strike a blow, to respond to the unfair competition that we see from the Chinese Communist Party”, added the Republican Roger Wicker, number two of the committee of Trade where the text was negotiated.
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Beijing is regularly accused by Washington of industrial espionage and threats to national security. Concretely, the plan provides for $ 52 billion over five years to encourage the manufacture of chips and semiconductors in the United States. In his presentation, the parliamentarians stressed that the Chinese Communist Party was investing “considerably, with more than 150 billion”, in these technologies.
$ 1.5 billion to develop 5G
The US plan also allocates $ 120 billion to a government agency, the National Science Foundation, to encourage research in various areas deemed key, such as artificial intelligence. It also includes a $ 1.5 billion envelope for the development of 5G, one of the main areas of tension between China and the United States. The Biden administration has for several months been looking for ways to boost domestic production of a range of industrial components, like chips, to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers.
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The US president issued an executive order in February calling on federal agencies to look into the matter within 100 days. Tuesday, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken praised the work of Congress vis-à-vis Beijing, including this industrial action plan, aimed at “strengthening the United States”. “Investments in our technologies, investments in our workers, investments in innovation and research and development, all of these together are for us the way to face China from a position of strength.”