JOHNSON: US tech sector versus Chinese economic imperialism

FILE - The American and Chinese flags wave at Genting Snow Park ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 2, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. The Biden administration is raising red flags about 33 Chinese companies whose legitimacy it cannot verify, imposing new restrictions on their ability to receive shipments from U.S. exporters and requiring extra diligence from American companies that want to do business with them. The Commerce Department said Monday that it was adding the companies to what is known as the “Unverified List,” a roster of businesses worldwide that are subjected to stricter export control because U.S. officials have been unable to do customary checks (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first two terms, relations with the West have sharply deteriorated. And now, following Xi’s recent election for a third term, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seems to be working overtime to export its autocratic vision of society to the rest of the world.   

One way they are advancing this goal is through technological innovation.   

From the Made in China 2025 plan to lead in tech to the Belt-and-Road Initiative to support infrastructure and development in other nations, China is laser-focused on becoming the world’s leading superpower, making key economies increasingly reliant on their technology and exports.  

With everything from manufacturing to supply chains reliant on tech, China’s leaders know that investing in innovation and their own technology sector will help China lead in the development of critical technologies.  

From artificial intelligence to microchips, leveraging these next generation technologies are vital to being competitive in a 21st century economy. China recognizes this and knows the future will be led by those who innovate first and “win the battle in key core technologies.”   

That’s why China’s aggressive ambitions and efforts to out-innovate the United States and our allies should concern us all. The stakes of today’s innovation battle are too high. If China gets ahead in the tech race, the security and economic risks will be severe.   

Washington has taken steps to curb China’s growing influence in recent months and years. However, more must be done to not only blunt China’s growing competitive threat but also to bolster U.S. companies so we can continue to compete and lead on the world stage.  

Despite knowing China’s ambitions and realizing the importance of strengthening U.S. technology companies, Congress is considering anti-innovation bills that would tie the hands of our biggest innovators making it more difficult for U.S. companies to win this innovation battle.   

If we lose this battle, our robust domestic economy, strong national security, and the world-wide advancement of democratic values through a free and open internet — all of which U.S. tech supports — will be threatened.   

The importance of tech for U.S. economic and national security is clear. In 2021, the U.S. tech sector constituted 9.3 percent — around $1.8 trillion — of America’s GDP, represented by both large, established technology companies and startups. These companies have developed tools — largely free to the public — that support efficient day-to-day operations in all sectors, as well as innovations in advanced computing, artificial intelligence, and hypersonics, making technology the very backbone of our nation’s economy and national security.  

This is particularly true in North Carolina, where the tech industry has grown at twice the rate of the national average since 2013 and where the Department of Defense (DOD) represents the state’s second largest sector of the economy. North Carolina is pioneering the production of essential technologies, strengthening our economy, and securing our nation.  For example, Wolfspeed, a Durham-based manufacturer, has also announced that it plans to build a $5 billion manufacturing campus to produce silicon carbide wafers, a key component of semiconductors. In September, a Duke University professor was named as the White House Coordinator for CHIPS Implementation at the National Economic Council.   

But we cannot let our foot off the gas.   

As China’s geopolitical and economic agenda become increasingly aggressive, it is more important than ever that we bolster our domestic tech sector that supports our economic and national security advantage. Looking forward, Congress should support policies that foster innovation and nourish the U.S. tech companies that give us our competitive edge over foreign adversaries.   

Jake Johnson is a Republican who represents District 113 in the North Carolina House of Representatives.