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US set to spend billions in hi-tech to out-compete China

CAG leads the SAI 20 summit in Goa

The United States appears set to open its purse strings to fund a new public-private partnership meant to out-compete China in the hi-tech domain.

On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation cleared the Endless Frontier Act on Thursday, which would establish a US$110 billion in technology funding for basic research, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) is reporting. If passed by the rest of the Senate and Congress, it would release billions of dollars poured into basic research for the next five years. The areas covered would be artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology and advanced energy. It will also fund advanced scientific research that anchor technological development.

Another US$10 billion have been earmarked for nailing at least 10 regional technology hubs in the country.

The move follows the passage of the Chips for America Act, which provisions spending to boost domestic semiconductor production that was passed as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA).

The move follows President Joe Biden’s inclination to follow on the footsteps of the former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt who used public spending, with private partnership, to lift the US out of the Great Depression of the thirties.

With the Endless Frontier Act, the US is looking to maintain its lead in critical technologies. The main goal is to stimulate US public-private partnerships to advance research, commercialisation and education in key areas, wrote the SCMP. It also places restrictions on cooperation with China and urges development in areas of competition between the world’s largest and second largest economy.

In a statement Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the sponsors of the bill, said after it is passed, the law would allow the US to out-compete countries like China.

“The Endless Frontier Act is trying to stimulate both US public and private entities in developing, enhancing, and accelerating new technologies and processes to move into the 21st century, and specifically, to compete with China,” the daily quoted Cameron Johnson, an adjunct faculty instructor at New York University, as saying.

For the US, Endless Frontier marks a big shift in its strategy towards technological research, meaning “a state-led science and technology research mechanism may once again lead core technology industry development”, the daily quoted Zhou Zipeng, an analyst at a think tank affiliated with the state-run investment bank China International Capital Corp, as saying.