When it comes to global technology leadership, America faces a growing and dangerous divide between the regulatory zeal of some and the national security interests of all Western countries. This “technical separation” threatens to undermine the United States’ national security strategy while giving China, our most capable authoritarian adversary, an enduring geopolitical advantage.
First of all, China’s ambition is not just to be a global superpower; it is said to be the dominant superpower. To achieve this, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) twists the concept of “rule of law” to ensure dominance through “rule of law.” Technology serves a critical component of his ambitions.
Domestically, CCP leaders are using vague laws like China’s Privacy Law to collect vast amounts of data transmitted across borders and require source codes for each entity deemed “critical information infrastructure” — putting personal information, corporate and national security at risk.
In an effort to permanently tilt the playing field in his favor, President Xi Jinping has called on China to “lead the reform of the global system of governance.” China’s approach to global governance has included increasing its participation in international institutions with a disgraceful eye on undermining organizations whose values are at odds with its own — such as human rights — while strengthening institutions and agreements consistent with its goals and norms match.
Overall, China’s economic warfare is targeting the systems, assets and technology that make up the national critical infrastructure, with the goal of replacing them with Chinese state-owned companies and targeting competition in sectors such as energy (bulk power generators), telecoms (spectrum and hardware) and critical Manufacturing (semiconductors). The CCP increasingly relies on the soft power of global corporations like ByteDance and Tencent to sustain narratives that serve authoritarian interests.
The Biden administration has released its mandated National Security Strategy. While the strategy emphasizes common traditional themes — such as protecting American security, expanding economic opportunities, and defending democratic values – the strategy primarily emphasizes the nature of competition between democracies and autocracies. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced a rewrite of strategy and perhaps made it possible to articulate in no uncertain terms the challenges we face today.
Put simply, Russia and China are behaving in a way that challenges international peace and stability. Russia has demonstrated its ability to wage an unprovoked war of aggression and engage in activities contrary to the international order. And this is a bipartisan issue. The Trump administration first condemned China’s ambitions and abusive tactics and brought its malign behavior to the fore in the US, and now Biden’s National Security Strategy also aptly names the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only autocracy “with the intent to transforming the international order, and increasingly with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to advance that goal.”
The strategy identifies this as an “age of competition” in which the US must “use all elements of our national power to outperform our strategic competitors.” It outlines three pillars for achieving its goals: investing in the sources and tools of American power and influence; building a coalition of nations to strengthen our influence in shaping the global strategic environment; and modernizing our military.
Critical to the success of all three pillars is the pace, scale, and strength of technological innovation in the United States. But America’s technological leadership and our ability to innovate are threatened by overzealous regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, whose efforts threaten the national security interests of the US and its allies.
Under the false pretense of fair competition and greater user choice, lawmakers at home and abroad are targeting the business models of US tech giants – namely Google, Amazon, Meta, Apple and Microsoft (GAFAM). The European Union recently passed the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a landmark piece of legislation that could impede market entry for major US tech companies, while exposing European businesses and consumers to the risks of Chinese competition.
As the EU seeks to implement the DMA, European Parliament Vice-President Dita Charanzová acknowledged the risk, saying: “The companies (US tech companies) are both loved and hated, but no one can deny that they are responsible for the European Business.”
Misguided efforts abroad are being duplicated by Congress with support from members of both parties. Targeted at US tech innovators, these proposals aim to change everything from how antitrust cases can be prosecuted by states to increasing the number of regulators to force tech companies to install allow apps from third-party app developers and enable those third parties to collect user information.
The Departments of Homeland Security, Defense Departments and the Director of National Intelligence should be more actively involved, and the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission should avoid indirectly supporting China’s ambitions. A briefing to Congress by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on the threats facing our technology infrastructure may be appropriate given that the House and Senate Budget Committees have a budget of nearly $3 billion for Recommend CISA in 2023 (over $400 million more). than requested).
Undoubtedly, there is a need for improved oversight and greater accountability within the US tech industry. However, this should not be at the expense of personal and national security. After all, technology isn’t just another sector — it’s the backbone of our national security, our economic prosperity, and the promotion of Western values.
Ultimately, these proposals could threaten the security of our nation and our allies. Antitrust legislation targeting US tech companies will fail their sponsors’ overblown goals; Rather, these bills would only serve to bolster China’s efforts to rewrite a new world order. The bills would undermine the security of personal and corporate data, jeopardize critical infrastructure, and subject citizens of democracies to authoritarian governments and China’s version of the “rule of law.”
Brian J Cavanaugh is Senior Vice President at American Global Strategies LLC. From 2018 to 2021 he was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council. Follow him on Twitter @brianjcavanau.