US senators propose Strategic Competition Act outlining strategic approach to China

US senators have elaborated draft legislation aimed to lay out a US strategic approach to China and ‘assure that the United States is positioned to compete with China across all dimensions of national and international power for decades to come’. Named ‘A bill to address issues involving the People’s Republic of China’ and having as short title ‘Strategic Competition Act of 2021’, the draft legislation states that the USA should lead in the innovation of critical and emerging technologies such as next-generation telecommunications, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and biotechnology. The bill contains a section fully dedicated to digital technology and connectivity (Section 121), which starts by stating that the USA ‘must lead in international standard-setting bodies that set the governance norms and rules for critical digitally enabled technologies in order to ensure that these technologies operate within a free, secure, interoperable, and stable digital domain’. It also notes that the USA ‘should lead an international effort […] to combat the expanding use of information and communications technology products and services to surveil, repress, and manipulate populations’. Some of the other provisions of this section envision that the USA should (a) negotiate bilateral and plurilateral agreements relating to digital goods with the EU, Japan, Taiwan, members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, and other nations; (b) lead a global effort to develop common principles and standards for critical technologies to ensure that they cannot be abused by malign state and non-state actors; and (c) form mutually beneficial alliances relating to digitally enabled technologies and services. Moreover, the bill would empower the Secretary of State to establish a Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership that would, among other elements, help foreign countries expand and increase secure internet access and digital infrastructure in emerging markets, protect their technological assets, promote exports of US ICT goods and services, and promote the diversification of ICT goods and supply chain services ‘to be less reliant on Chinese imports’. Elsewhere, the draft legislation proposes the establishment of a Technology Partnership Office, within the Department of State, to be led by an Ambassador-at-Large for Technology and to be tasked, among other issues, with establishing technology partnerships with countries and unions, and harmonising technology governance regimes with partners and coordinating on basic and pre-competitive research and development initiatives in key technologies.