US' ban on high-tech investment cannot stifle China's high-tech development
Published: Aug 11, 2023 12:45 AM
Backfiring moves.Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

Backfiring moves.Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday restricting investments in China, intended to further stymie China's advances in three cutting-edge technology areas: semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies and certain artificial intelligence systems. The "decoupling" of high tech from China began under Donald Trump, and the Biden administration has continued that ambition. However, the new order doesn't target US investments already invested in China, but the new ones.

The Biden administration has repeatedly claimed that the US restrictions will be narrowly targeted and will not "have a fundamental impact on affecting the investment climate for China." Biden's new executive order is still subject to consultation with the US business community and the public and is not expected to take effect until next year.

The order has been brewed for a long time and has generated a lot of publicity. But almost no one believes that this executive order will deal a new practical blow to Chinese high technology, because almost everyone knows that China needs American technology more than American money. The order has gained much attention because it is seen as part of a broader trend of the US drifting away from China.

The promulgation and brewing process of the executive order reflects the strong desire of American political elites to suppress China's high-tech development, as well as a fierce game between those supporting the executive order and the concerns of the technology and economic sectors about a potential backfire on the US. It is a kind of compromise. Washington obviously hopes that major allies will follow Biden's executive order. The UK's Sunak government has made cautious statements, stating that it is consulting business and the financial sector before deciding whether to follow suit. 

In fact, China also has the ability to influence the extent to which Biden's executive order is implemented, as well as the extent to which the US will go in terms of "decoupling" from China. We are definitely not just passive recipients of US policies. American political elites are eager to "decouple" from China as quickly and deeply as possible, but they fear two things: 

First, this will immediately damage the performance of relevant high-tech companies in the US, undermine their influence and further innovation. The current Biden administration, in particular, does not want to incur strong resentment from Silicon Valley and Wall Street toward the escalating "decoupling," which will ultimately lead to the loss of support for the Democratic Party. 

Second, they are afraid of pushing China toward more resolute independent innovation to achieve breakthroughs in key technologies such as chips. If the US "decoupling" policy gives birth to major technological achievements in China, it means that Washington will completely lose the gamble: They originally wants to stifle China's high-tech development, but ends up strangling their own companies.

What China needs to do next is to fully unleash our innovation vitality, continuously reduce our dependence on high-tech products from the US, and prove that as long as we are determined to achieve independent innovation, we have the ability to accomplish things. We need to prove that being pressured by the US will only make us stronger. As long as there are several solid proofs of this trend, the US policy community will fall into unprecedented chaos, and their panic will be much more severe than when they saw the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy before Trump started the trade war.

Regardless of the future of China-US relations, the current battle will be the key battle that determines the future competition between China and the US. China can only win and cannot afford to lose. High-tech products such as chips are not isolated. The innovation power of China's entire manufacturing industry and the creative vitality of the whole society are the foundation for shaping these key achievements. When pressured by the US, our society needs to generate confidence and resilience from all directions, and we need to accelerate and seize every opportunity, rather than shrink and simply defend. Otherwise, the US will gain the upper hand in momentum, and we will truly be in a passive and defensive position.

We must see that the US is on the offensive, but its offensive is becoming weaker and weaker, and it is always hesitant with each step. What is presented to China are difficulties and risks, but also the dawn of victory.

The author is a Chinese media professional. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn