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Brookings: US and China Will Remain Leaders in High Technology, But the US Has Advantages

13.08.2023
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https://www.brookings.edu/articles/technology-competition-between-nations-views-from-industry-leaders/

Technology competition has become a major topic in geopolitics. The United States and its allies and partners have recently taken aggressive steps to increase their competitiveness. In particular, the US and the EU passed the "Chip Act" to support domestic semiconductor production, while the US also implemented a series of new export restrictions and administrative measures aimed at curtailing China's own high-end semiconductor industry. For its part, Beijing has doubled down on its technology self-sufficiency strategy and implemented restrictive measures of its own, such as the recent ban on Micron products in telecommunications infrastructure. Entrepreneurs, firms and research labs in both the US and China are looking to take advantage of the business and strategic opportunities created by OpenAI's rapid implementation of ChatGPT last fall. However, while the US and China are becoming increasingly aggressive in their efforts to “win” global technology competition, how that competition plays out will not be decided solely by officials in Beijing and Washington. Enterprises and technology firms scattered around the world will play a major role. To gauge their views on where technology is headed, the Brookings Institution recently surveyed some 285 executives, academics and researchers from the global technology industry to find out their views on how the industry will evolve. Approximately 100 respondents work in organizations headquartered in China, another 100 in organizations headquartered in the US and 50 in organizations headquartered in Europe. The rest of the respondents were scattered across India, East Asia and Southeast Asia. More than 60% of all respondents worked in the semiconductor or high-tech industry, while the rest worked in companies that actively use semiconductor technology, such as in the software or automotive sectors.

Several themes stand out. First, according to the poll, the US is considered to be in a stronger competitive position than Washington might think. Second, and vice versa, China is considered to face significant obstacles, especially in its quest to develop advanced semiconductor manufacturing capacity and maintain its share of global electronics manufacturing. Third, despite the challenges faced by the US and China, they are considered to be well ahead of other regions, especially Europe, as places to develop, commercialize, and scale new technologies. Fourth, the future of the global tech industry is likely to be shared and risk-free, with many firms continuing to serve the US and Chinese tech ecosystems even as they become increasingly divided and isolated.

While US officials often express concern that the US is lagging behind in its ability to innovate, their concerns are not shared by experts and executives interviewed. When asked which regions or countries will best improve their competitiveness over the next decade, respondents are optimistic about the United States and China in core technology compared to the rest of the world. However, the US was seen as an up-and-coming country most likely to improve its ability to create breakthrough innovations and core technologies over the next five years.

Similarly, there is significant optimism about the impact of the US government's efforts to move advanced semiconductor manufacturing to the United States. Survey respondents believe that the US will receive the largest share (among all other regions) in advanced semiconductor manufacturing.

In addition, respondents also do not share concerns that US policies are reducing America's attractiveness to talent and capital. Although the survey had a roughly equal number of participants from companies headquartered in the US and China, respondents believe that the US will be 5 times more likely to outsell China in raising global capital and nearly 6 times more likely to attract the world's top technical talent. This sentiment was universal—respondents from all countries, regions, and industry segments rank the United States as the most attractive global destination for talent and capital. Respondents from European, Indian and other Asian companies choose the United States 6 times more often than China as their preferred place to find talent and 10 times more often as their preferred place to invest.

 

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