The Trump administration has failed to meet the technological challenge posed by China. According to a Council on Foreign Relations task force on innovation and national security, “despite bipartisan support for broad technology competition with Beijing, the White House has failed to work with Congress to increase federal support for basic R&D and has adopted an incremental and limited approach to supporting the development of frontier technologies.” Meanwhile, Trump’s backward immigration policies have threatened our ability to compete for global talent when we need it most. This, at precisely the moment China has surged investment in these areas. According to a Brookings Institution analysis, China has more than quadrupled the number of undergraduate science and engineering degrees granted by its universities, from 360,000 in 2000 to 1.7 million in 2015. According to Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, the Chinese government is probably investing at least as much in artificial intelligence as the United States in a drive to become “the world’s primary AI innovation center” by 2030.
The president’s vaunted “phase one” trade agreement, on the heels of a trade war that cost tens of billions of dollars and pushed many American farmers into bankruptcy, is unlikely to even recoup its own costs, and has made no real progress on the original casus belli: the theft of intellectual property and unfair subsidies. Trump took the heat off while China continues to engage in intellectual property theft and double down on distortionary subsidies in strategically critical technologies, like advanced semiconductors.
Trump has also written China a blank check on human rights abuse.