This report is a companion to CSET’s Analyses of China’s Technology Policies and Ecosystem: The PRC’s Domestic Approach.
The research summarized here is based on global tech monitoring, primary source language translations, and data analyses of private sector activity. We work to contextualize China’s technology development and acquisition strategies alongside those of the United States and its global allies and partners, and to situate the U.S.-China rivalry in the broader landscape of democratic and authoritarian technology competition.
Based on CSET’s research, this brief details how the PRC employs strategies abroad to advance its global tech leadership goals. It covers several high-level themes:
- Leading in research and trying to shape standards. China is increasingly contributing to high-impact research in artificial intelligence (AI), and it aspires to lead in setting global standards for emerging technologies.
- Backing Chinese companies abroad. The PRC provides Chinese companies like Huawei with resources and backing through subsidies, illicit intellectual property (IP) practices, and other methods, with disregard for global norms and business practices. The government also encourages Chinese companies to invest abroad in emerging technology areas of interest.
- Acquiring foreign technology and talent. In addition to private sector and illicit practices, China uses official science and technology (S&T) diplomats to acquire technologies on an extensive “wishlist” for China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. Some of its talent acquisition efforts also look abroad through talent tracking programs, international collaborations, and possibly in tacit knowledge transfers.
U.S. Policy Options
To confront these strategies and remain competitive with the PRC, CSET offers U.S. policymakers several recommendations:
- The United States should focus on developing and retaining its talent pipeline, particularly access to foreign skilled labor. Foreign talent is especially important in the U.S. semiconductor industry. It should consider increasing country-based caps on annually distributed employment-based green cards, and generally try to expand the number of American students who are in AI- and semiconductor-related graduate programs. To do so, policymakers should allocate funding to universities and government-industry-academic partnerships to facilitate the increased implementation of on-the-job training models.
- The U.S. should prioritize open-source intelligence collection and analysis related to science and technology amid competition with China, particularly in monitoring global developments in emerging technologies and/or their implications for economic competitiveness.
- In the context of long-term strategic competition with China and AI’s effect on national power, U.S. policymakers should consider how AI introduces new elements, changes the import of existing factors, and alters the goals of competition over time. The U.S. should learn from its competitors without mirror imaging them, share insights with allies without presuming policy alignment with the U.S., and look ahead to how AI technologies may affect the aims and interests of U.S. allies and partners.
The brief examines the above themes and concludes with recommendations for how U.S. policymakers can understand and counter China’s actions abroad. It shares insights from CSET’s data-driven approach to analysis and provides illustrative examples.