US Senators introduce legislation for partnership development with democratic countries to combat China threat

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Representative Image
Representative Image

Washington [US], March 16 (ANI): A bipartisan group of US Senators led by Mark Warner and Bob Menendez have launched legislation to develop a partnership and technique amongst democratic nations to compete towards the rising technological power of China and the threat it possesses.

The legislation--which was introduced earlier this month -- if passed would be known as the ''Democracy Technology Partnership Act''.

The criteria for participation in the global partnership - as laid out by the legislation - requires that the country be a democratic national government with a strong commitment to democratic values, have an economy with advanced technology sectors, and have a demonstrated record of interest or expressed interest in international cooperation and coordination with the US on defence and intelligence issues.

In addition, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act creates a USD 5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to support joint research projects between government research agencies, universities, technology companies and other businesses from partner countries, as well as to make technology investments in third-country markets.

The legislation also creates a Public-Private Board, called the International Technology Partnership Advisory Board, made up of individuals with demonstrated expertise in the fields of emerging technologies and international trade to provide advice and recommendations to the Technology Partnership Office and on the bill's implementation.

According to the bill, the US Congress finds that "The 21st century will increasingly be defined by economic competition rooted in technological advances. Leaders in adopting emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and next-generation telecommunications, and those who shape the use of such technologies, will garner economic, military, and political strength for decades.

The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish a US interagency office at the State Department, tasked with creating a partnership among democratic countries to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, and coordinate export controls and investment screening on emerging and critical technologies.

"Technological leadership by the world's major liberal-democratic nations collectively will be essential to safeguarding democratic institutions, norms, and values, and contributing to global peace and prosperity, especially as authoritarian governments seek to promote closed information systems and technology that is not interoperable, often through trade and investment practices that are in compatible with global norms," the bill read.

"A unified approach by Like-minded nations is needed to counteract growing investments in, and deployments of, emerging technologies by authoritarian powers," the bill added.

The bill further stated that addition to the development of emerging technologies, democratic nations must lead in shaping expectations for the responsible use of such technologies and push back against laissez faire approaches and authoritarian interests on internet governance advanced in multilateral forums by-- advocating against efforts to criminalize or limit political dissent and freedom of speech online and prioritizing protections for elections, and other processes essential for healthy democracies, from cyber-attack.

"The PRC seeks to use technological superiority for national security, military-civil fusion, and economic gains, according to its strategic plans... The PRC seeks to advance in areas in which democratic countries currently have a technological advantage and move ahead in emerging technologies where China seeks a unique opportunity to overtake such countries," the bill read.

The bill stated that China uses technologies, such as AI, facial recognition, and biometrics, to increase control over its population, facilitating mass surveillance, scalable censorship, and technology-enabled social control, including against ethnic and religious minorities including Tibetans, Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups.

"Third countries have become particular targets of Chinese investments in technology. These third-country investments provide access to innovation, data that allows Chinese companies to refine their own systems, and influence over the policies of these governments. The terms on which Chinese investments are made often are attractive in the short term but create conditions for Chinese ownership of or influence over, major industries in those countries," the bill pointed out.

While, the United States remains a leader in the science and technology areas of engineering and biology as well as key components, including telecommunications equipment and semiconductors, the bill states that the US does not have a domestic manufacturer of radio access network equipment for 5G networks, but is well-positioned to lead in 6G telecommunications, which depend on software and semiconductors, areas of United States strength.

"Other countries have unique knowledge, expertise, and capabilities in numerous cutting edge technologies, including semiconductor manufacturing equipment, such as extreme ultraviolet lithography machines for semiconductor fabrication and machine tools for fabrication of custom components. In order to successfully compete against the PRC, the United States must partner with such countries," it said further.

This legislation introduction comes in light of the worsening relations between the United States and China, Washington has labelled Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, as national security threats.

"The (US) Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau today released a list of communications equipment and services that have been deemed a threat to national security... The list includes five Chinese companies that produce telecommunications equipment and services that have been found to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons," the FCC said in a statement on Friday.

Last December, Congress approved a US$1.9 billion fund to pay carriers to "rip and replace" Huawei and ZTE equipment from US networks.The US is also seeking the extradition from Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, on charges relating to wire fraud - a major source of tension between the US and Chinese governments.

At a briefing earlier this month, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration was "concerned about the dangers of installing networks with equipment that can be manipulated, disrupted, or even controlled by the People's Republic of China, which as we know, of course, has no regard for human rights or privacy."

In February, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) warned that the efforts made by the Chinese Communist Party to obtain US health data, particularly DNA, through hacking had stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ANI)