US Senate passes ambitious bill to address China tech threat

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The U.S. Senate voted 68-32 on Tuesday to approve a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology.

The desire for a hard line in dealings with China is one of the few bipartisan sentiments in the deeply divided U.S. Congress, which is narrowly controlled by President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats.

The measure authorises about $190 billion for provisions to strengthen U.S. technology and research – and would separately approve spending $54 billion to increase U.S. production and research into semiconductors and telecommunications equipment, including $2 billion dedicated to chips used by automakers that have seen massive shortages and made significant production cuts.

The bill must pass the House of Representatives to be sent to the White House for Biden to sign into law. It is not clear what legislation in the House will look like or when it might take it up.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a co-sponsor of the measure, warned of the dire consequences of not funding research to keep up with China.

“If we do nothing, our days as the dominant superpower may be ending. We don’t mean to let those days end on our watch. We don’t mean to see America become a middling nation in this century,” Schumer said.

Senator Todd Young, a Republican co-author, said the bill “is not only about beating the Chinese Communist Party, (it) is about using their challenge to become a better version of ourselves through investment in innovation.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said the funding could result in seven to 10 new U.S. semiconductor plants.

General Motors Co said the legislation “represents an important step to address the semiconductor shortage that continues to impact U.S. automotive manufacturing.”

Some critics have likened the Senate funding effort to China’s high-tech industrial development push, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” which long irked the United States.

The bill also seeks to counter Beijing’s growing global influence through diplomacy, by working with allies and increasing U.S. involvement in international organizations after Republican former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

(REUTERS)

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