back to article USA's plan to decouple its tech with China lacks a strategy – report

The USA's policy of decoupling its technology industries from China lacks a strategy, a theory of success, and an understanding of how to achieve its ill-defined goals, according to a new paper by Jon Bateman from the thinktank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). "The United States cannot afford simply to muddle …

  1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    USA decoupling From China

    "The USA's policy of decoupling its technology industries from China lacks a strategy, a theory of success, and an understanding of how to achieve its ill-defined goals, ..."

    A pretty damning assessment. Makes it sound like more of a 'wish list' that an actual policy. My personal experience of plans is that the ones without clearly defined goals invariably make things worse, not better. The relationship is so complicated and involves not only China, but also lots of other intermediary countries, decoupling would take decades, if it is at all possible.

    1. Dr. Vagmeister

      Re: USA decoupling From China

      Whenever i order electronic components, sometimes it is difficult to determine the country of origin, but UK Farnell does seem to list it for most. Using Mouser (US based supplier) then no information for country of origin is provided.

      The country listed on Farnell is just the last location the product was processed. So no guarantee of excluding China. A manufacturer could easily make in China and then label/encapsulate in another country and it would be listed other than China.

      It would require all manufacturers to agree to a chain of manufacturing documentation, which is easy to ascertain too.

      Another annoying thing, is that Amazon does not list the country of origin, so you can only determine this by delving into the site, or that the delivery time is long.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: USA decoupling From China

      I agree with your comments although I would describe it less as a 'wish list' and more of a 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks' list.

      The West's attempt to decouple from Russia over Ukraine and the difficulties and costs associated with it should serve as an object lesson.

      We also need to keep in mind that China was our biggest trading partner in 2021, both in imports and exports.

      Even limiting it to technology presents problems. NASA's decoupling the Chinese space program led to them focusing their efforts and they now have their own space station, not to mention the only rover on the moon. Huawei, despite sanctions, remains a technological leader in both hardware and software (if not in profit).

      For better or worse, the Chinese have smart people, just like the US, and too often this seems to be overlooked.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: USA decoupling From China

        Sure, they have their "Skylab" now - fifity years later - and thank to a lot of Western technology we have transferred to China just because of easy and larger profits for a few.

        Russia did and does have smart people too - but CCCP still failed miserably without being able to get Western technology easily. And many of those Chinese "smart people" are busy trying to get at all that the technology they can't develop locally. Because you need to be not only smart, but enough close to the Party to get the job.

        But the West was very gracious too opening a lot of technology - FOSS is truly a great gift for authoritarian States, hey get all this IP for free, you don't need to develop it yourself, we are giving it to you because we are idiots - some of use wanted people to work for free to enrich a few, and those few were so blinded by the gold they cold amass they couldn't see beyond their noses - while other wanted exactly that.

  2. DS999 Silver badge

    The inability of the US to decouple from China

    Is only matched by China's inability to decouple from the US.

    Both sides will do it partway, but neither will ever come close to achieving it. And that is good, it will force us to find ways to live with each other.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: The inability of the US to decouple from China

      Yeah, that's what the Germans said about Russia. Look where it's got them.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: The inability of the US to decouple from China

        The Germans depend on Russia for ONE thing, that's so different than all the ways the US and China economy are intertwined the idea you think the two are comparable is laughable.

  3. LDS Silver badge
    Devil

    This paper can be summarized in one line

    "Without China cheap labour our large shareholder profits and executive bonuses are gone!!!"

    Also look at the sentence "modernizing US forces through measures like incorporating private sector innovations" - as if US forces became stronger after relying on a huge mass of contractors... that's the pure entity about which Eisenhower warned about.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: This paper can be summarized in one line

      During wars like Vietnam and WW2 it was reckoned that for every person actually doing the fighting eight or nine were involved in support roles. Its those support roles that have been privatized and also out sourced since there's no requirement for contractors or their employing organizations to be American.

      Chinese labor isn't particularly cheap these days. Its difficult to get an accurate mapping but from Chinese colleagues it appears that middle class / professional wages are comparable with those in the US while the overall cost of living (taxes, housing etc.) is quite a bit lower. It would be interesting to see an unbiased comparison of costs between the two countries -- like the UK we can't keep driving wages down because we've hit poverty levels, the point where its pointless to voluntarily go to work.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: This paper can be summarized in one line

        " Its those support roles that have been privatized and also out sourced"

        Exactly. To companies that do that for profit - which means they need to deliver the worst service they could without being replaced with another (but that depends on how good your lobbyists are) to maximize profits. WW2 wasn't won using contractors. An armed force can't be run "maximizing shareholder value". Actually it looks what happened in Russia - and the battlefield results show it. But hey, my yacht is longer than yours! The Pentagon has a lot of issues, but it won't be the "private sector" to save it.

        "Chinese labor isn't particularly cheap these days."

        Still far cheaper than in US or EU. Plus there are not much of those pesky regulations to avoid pollution or the like.

        "it appears that middle class / professional wages"

        They aren't the masses assembling and delivering the goods resold with a huge profit.

  4. martinusher Silver badge

    Futile political-speak

    This is just another example of how corporate and political America is increasingly detached from reality. As in the UK the "financialization" of corporate America saw a shift from 'manufacturing' to 'services', a realignment of the economy that saw a shift from 'making' to 'marketing' over a generation or more. Most of us in the 'making' biz just shook our heads and said "this will all end in tears - short term profit over long term security" and I think we were right. The problem the pols have, though, is that what took a generation to undo is going to take more than a generation to redo -- we not only have to re-develop both the skills and the work culture but also do this in the face of intense competition from abroad.

    We in the US are going through a phase that's all to familiar to British people. A factory (larded with subsidies) will open, there will be much trumpeting about 'jobs created' but it will often be no more than a glorified warehouse/localizing plant for an overseas corporation. It may work, especially as often its more a marketing expense than a productive business unit ("cost of doing business is that it needs to have x% local content"). Meanwhile, nothing really changes.

  5. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    You want trade, but you don't want dependency. That means 2nd sources (at a country/control level if not in your own jurisdiction) for all things along your supply and manufacturing chain, etc.

    But then people want cheap and new-shiny, and that means short-lived designs and no 2nd source.

    Sigh.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    Not New, Not Clear, Not Honest

    When I was at IBM in the early 2000's, I took to referring to us (IBM) as "rope sellers"--as in "When it comes time to hang the capitalists, one of them will sell us the rope."

    China's official rhetoric towards the US has been consistent in that we are the enemy, and the focus of their struggle. It takes a special kind of stupid to ignore that talk.

    I was at Google in 2015, when the Chinese dictator had a meet & greet with some of our biggest rope sellers. Google was not in attendance, and some Googlers were unhappy that we were not on that stage. Of course, this was three years after China was caught stealing Google's source code wholesale. It takes a special kind of stupid to ignore those actions.

    “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

    And make no mistake that China's treatment of their Uyghur and Tibetian populations is the template, not an exception.

  7. msobkow Silver badge

    Of course it lacks a strategy, because it is a knee-jerk reaction sparked by Trump's diatribes about China to rally up his rabid base. Now that the rabble are roused about China, something has to appear to be done, regardless of the cost.

    Besides, it is an American tradition to have multi-billion dollar pork barrels for the corporations with the common taxpayer footing the bill for the largesse.

  8. Binraider Silver badge

    The obvious problem is STEM education and the cost of getting it. USian specialists rightfully expect compensation for the stupidly large student loans they run up. This only adds to the shortage of folks willing to put the time in to join the sector.

    Of course it could be worse. UK student debt looking like it will out price US, and with worse job prospects to boot.

  9. SundogUK Silver badge

    So the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace doesn't actually want the US to decouple from China then? Guess they've taken the payoff.

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Google parent Alphabet"

    An extraordinary family, where a 'parent' can be engendered by a party that becomes subsequently its offspring. Almost like something out of a Greek tragedy.

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