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The Undeclared U.S.-China Technology War

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Image Credit: CCP.

What If China Wins The Fight For Technological Superiority? – For some years now, an undeclared war has been going on between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Unlike the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, this war is not about territory. Rather, it is about acquiring advantages in a set of key technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), 5G, cloud and quantum computing, cybersecurity, microelectronics, and extended reality.

The Chinese Communist Party has a plan to win this war based on creating and supporting a set of so-called national champions. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress is pushing anti-trust legislation that would needlessly damage our tech sector, while potentially handing China a permanent technological advantage. If China wins the fight to dominate these key technologies it will undermine the freedoms enjoyed by the American people, weaken this country economically, and threaten our national security.

It is generally recognized that the future of the world will depend on dominance in critical technologies generally associated with the exploitation of information. These technologies are changing almost every aspect of American life. In addition, the companies that have brought us a cornucopia of IT-based advances generate trillions of dollars of economic activity and employ millions of workers in good, high-paying jobs.

These same advanced technologies, but particularly AI, are changing not only the way military forces are organized and operations are conducted, but also the very definition of military power. The Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering published a report, Technology Vision for an Era of Competition, that calls for DoD to “leverage the United States’ incredible technology innovation potential to solve the Department’s tough operational, engineering, and mission-focused challenges.” This document identifies a set of 14 critical technology areas, including AI, ML, integrated networks, advanced computing and software, microelectronics, and cyber, the mastery of which will be vital to maintaining the dominance of the U.S. military.

China is intent on dominating these critical technologies, the pursuit of which is part of what Beijing calls its Military-Civil Fusion Strategy, intended “to fuse its economic, social, and security development strategies to build an integrated national strategic system and capabilities in support of the PRC’s national rejuvenation goals.” A Harvard study of the U.S.-China tech competition warned that “China has become a serious competitor in the foundational technologies of the 21st century: artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, quantum information science (QIS), semiconductors, biotechnology, and green energy.” Beijing’s current 14th Five Year Plan calls for the government and Chinese companies to increase investment in advanced technologies including AI, quantum computing, 5G, and biotech in order to achieve dominant global capabilities.

The U.S. is willing to play by the traditional rules of the liberal economic world order, allowing private companies to compete to advance the state of technology, thereby doing well for themselves, shareholders, and the public. China is not. In the area of high tech, as in so many others, China sees the competition with the U.S. and the rest of the world as zero sum. To that end, Beijing has identified a series of national champions whose efforts to dominate critical advanced technologies are supported by the government. These champions are all beholden to the Chinese military.

What would be the consequences be for the United States and the free world if China were able to dominate these critical technologies? Simply put, such a future would be disastrous for this country with respect to personal freedom, economic prosperity, and national security. National security officials have publicly warned that China cannot be allowed to dominate key technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, quantum computing, semiconductors, and biotechnology.

Chinese domination of 5G could allow the Communist Party and Chinese military to spy on U.S. citizens and the government. The Biden Administration banned Chinese national champions such as Huawei and ZTE from selling networking equipment in this country because of concerns that their technologies could be used for surveillance and espionage against private U.S. citizens. Dominating 5G is key to Beijing’s pursuit of “digital authoritarianism” not only at home but worldwide.

The high-tech sector annually contributes nearly $2 trillion dollars to the U.S. economy and employs some 12 million workers. China’s domination of high tech would thus put the overall U.S. economy and millions of jobs at risk. China also would be able to set the standard in telecoms and computing, thereby achieving a permanent economic advantage.

Perhaps most seriously, a Chinese victory in the fight to dominate high tech could fundamentally undermine U.S. national security. Victory in future wars will be determined by a military’s ability to collect, analyze, move, and exploit information. China’s domination of AI, ML, 5G, and quantum computing could give it a decisive advantage in future conflicts. The military that can more rapidly pass data between sensors and shooters and speed up the decision process could “outgun” its opponent. By controlling 5G, Chinese companies could establish back doors to penetrate U.S. military communications or jam those networks entirely.

Chinese military analysts and many U.S. experts believe that the nation which can lead in AI will gain a decisive military advantage. AI-enabled systems will be critical to controlling U.S. military forces and, in particular, to the creation of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control system which will connect all elements of the U.S. military. AI could create a new world of autonomous weapons and air, sea and land-based drones to operate alongside or even replace traditional military systems. An advantage in AI will be critical to U.S. cybersecurity operations, both offensive and defensive. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence concluded that “if the United States does not act, it will likely lose its leadership position in AI to China in the next decade and become more vulnerable to a spectrum of AI-enabled threats from a host of nations and non-state actors.”

The competition between the U.S. and China for advantage in critical technologies is accelerating and intensifying. Beijing has made this a national mission, and has been identifying and supporting national champions to spearhead this effort. The U.S., by contrast, is hampering its leading high-tech companies. Congress is pursuing anti-trust legislation that demonstrably harms U.S. companies’ pursuit of high tech and in some cases actually helps their Chinese rivals. If the U.S. does not develop a strategic approach to pursuing high tech it risks serious harm to the liberty of its citizens, the economy, and national security.

Dr. Daniel Goure, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program. Dr. Goure has held senior positions in both the private sector and the U.S. Government. Most recently, he was a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team. Dr. Goure spent two years in the U.S. Government as the director of the Office of Strategic Competitiveness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also served as a senior analyst on national security and defense issues with the Center for Naval Analyses, Science Applications International Corporation, SRS Technologies, R&D Associates, and System Planning Corporation.

Written By

Dr. Goure is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program.



  1. Wim Vincken

    April 15, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    Not so fast! What you claim is already claimed for years about China, and nothing has changed in that country about that subject.
    It’s not about the technology they or anyone else might develop, it’s about integration of such technologies.
    That said, the other issue about such technologies is the development of it. China (and Russia for that matter) are not able to develop major technologies by themselves. They need the west for it.

    For example, they have huge technology parks with hundreds of high-risers and modern office buildings. You’ll be impressed when you watch them from the outside. When you enter those buildings, you get the impression you enter a military barrack, those which were used 50 years ago.

    If you ever work with a 100% Chinese technological team, you will have some problems to overcome. Almost no original thought, and absolutely no innovative motivation in their research and high-level work on technology and methodologies. Only the thought about it will scare each Chinese member.
    And not to forget, in the middle of complicated work, they drop what they are doing and have a nap for a couple of hours, even when it means a setback of months of work. And after more than 10 working hours a day, they drop everything else and return home, cost what cost.

    In a Chinese technical organization, they have high-management, low-management and no middle management. Designers they indeed have, but those people design what the top management tells them to do. To teach those designers methodologies is an impossible task and a personal risk for them. It goes against their communistic system.

  2. Jimmy John Doe

    April 15, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    The problem facing china today is not high technology BUT old dementia-troubled guys like xi jinping who’s directly responsible for transmitting covid to the rest of the world.

    China has brilliant scientists like ma weiming, who’s a top academician and inventor-researcher, but these people have to contend with dumbass dengists like xi.

    Xi is not only responsible for covid (via his STUPIDITY & HUBRIS, not the virus origin), he’s also responsible for wasting trillions investing overseas via his extremely dumb belt and road pet project and hosting secret meetings with executives of accounting mafia goldman sachs.

    China needs to pull people like xi from their high horse and EXILE them to north america where they really belong. Once this’s done, the country will surge ahead without worrying about any competition. Cuz the competition out there can’t compete with 1,400 million people.

  3. Commentar

    April 15, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    Xi jinping must step down this year and not hold on to his present job. Otherwise, the army must step in and put a bullet right through his head.

    The president’s post was once largely ceremonial in nature but under ‘reforms’ made by the shorty guy, president’s post became a copy of US chief executive position with all it’s attendant frailties.


    April 16, 2022 at 12:49 am

    The US needs to issue an arrest warrant for president Xi jinping for failing to stop covid-19 transmission at end of 2020 and beginning of 2021.

    In addition, he needs to appear in a US court for exporting opioids to US.

    China has allowed huge troves of foreign aliens into southern china where they have been producing recreational opioids and fake Viagra and other substances like fentayl and selling them in US, which was called out by trump in 2019.

    An arrest warrant is really and truly needed.

  5. Him

    April 16, 2022 at 2:41 am

    If China attacks Taiwan, the strategy used against Putin won’t work against China.

    Regarding Taiwan, it will not be easy for the West to resupply Taiwan since it is an island, particularly if Taiwan island is surrounded by the Chinese fleet, which is larger than the U.S fleet.

    Furthermore, where the West is dependent on Russia’s oil and gas – where there are alternative suppliers – in the case of China, the West is almost entirely dependent on manufacture of critical cheap components. For instance, do you think Apple can instantly recreate the entire supply and manufacture system from China to somewhere else in an instant?

    Things like iPhones and mobile phones are actually critical infrastructure in the West, and it has been utter foolishness to be beholden to a Totalitarian regime for the supply of critical components.

    But nothing will change, since money talks. e.g. the NBA and LeBron James kowtowing in order to preserve their financial interests.

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