Editorial Notes

Imperfect competition between US and China: Statesman

The paper says the latest bill to help US compete with China could be a turning point for American leadership in the 21st century.

Chinese and US flags flutter outside a company building in Shanghai on April 14, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Geopolitics has assumed an economic edge with Tuesday's (June 8) passage by the US Senate of the decidedly anti-China bill, the vote-count being a convincing 68 to 32.

The economic and military war between the United States of America and the People's Republic of China has sharpened with the Senate approving what it calls a "sprawling" US$250 billion (S$331 billion) bill to curtail China's economic and military ambitions.

The legislation, adopted on a bipartisan vote, invests heavily in US science and technology while threatening a bevy of punishments - is 'reprisal' the right expression? - against Beijing. The bill is intended to counter China's growing economic and military prowess, hoping that major investments in science - and fresh reprisals targeting Beijing - might give the United States an enduring edge.

In a chamber whose functioning has often been impeded by partisan division, Democrats and Republicans found rare accord over the sweeping measure, known as the United States Innovation and Competition Act. Nonetheless, lawmakers have warned that Washington risked ceding the country's technological leadership to one of its foremost geopolitical adversaries. The legislation is quite the most important achievement in US history in recent times.

At another remove, the Communist Party of China has been straining every nerve to ensure global economic dominance. China has spent billions propping up state-owned enterprises and subsidising research and development. According to a section of the Senators, the government in Beijing often uses US ideas to compete - "and sometimes cheat" - American employees and business enterprises.

Small wonder the National People's Congress has been remarkably prompt in expressing its robust dissatisfaction. "This bill seeks to exaggerate and spread the so-called China threat to maintain global American hegemony. The United States uses human rights and religion as excuses to interfere in China's domestic politics, and deprive China of its legitimate development rights".

The foreign ministry in Beijing has denounced the legislation as an example of "zero-sum thinking which distorts the facts and smears China's development path and domestic and foreign policies". As regards the nitty-gritty of the legislation - beyond polemics - the US Innovation and Competition Act invests more than US$100 billion of taxpayers' funds to reinforce the US leadership in scientific and technological innovations that are critical to national security and economic competitiveness.

Additionally, it will also strengthen the security of essential supply chains, and the US' ability to address supply chain disruptions during an economic crisis. This bill, in a word, could be the turning point for American leadership in the 21st century, not to ignore the signal development in President Biden's narrative. The terms of trade are at least theoretically weighted in favour of America - an eventuality that is unlikely to be readily digested by China. It is a new chapter in bilateral economic history.

  • The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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