Wednesday 9 June 2021 11:08 am

US Senate passes sweeping bill to counter China tech threat

The US Senate has voted to approve a package of legislation intended to boost the country’s ability to compete with Chinese technology.

An aggrieved China responded to the 68-32 vote by saying it refused to being cast as an “imaginary” US enemy.

The measure authorises around $190bn for provisions to strengthen US technology and research.

It also enables spending $54bn to increase the nation’s production and research into tech equipment, including $2bn dedicated to chips used by automakers.

US ‘distorting the spirit of innovation’

China’s parliament expressed strong opposition to the bill by saying it showed “paranoid delusion of wanting to be the only winner” and had distorted the spirit of innovation and competition.

“We firmly object to the United States seeing China as an imaginary enemy,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing.

The bill must pass the House of Representatives to be sent to the White House for Joe Biden to sign into law.

Biden praised the bill, saying: “We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off. We cannot risk falling behind.”

It is not yet clear what legislation in the House will look like or when it might take it up.

What else is in the bill?

The bill has several China-related provisions including prohibiting the social media app TikTok from being downloaded on government devices.

It would also block the purchase of drones manufactured and sold by Chinese firms, as well as creating broad new sanctions on the nation’s entities engaged in US cyberattacks.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned of the dire consequences of not funding research to keep up with China.

“If we do nothing, our days as the dominant superpower may be ending. We don’t mean to let those days end on our watch. We don’t mean to see America become a middling nation in this century,” Schumer said.

Some critics have likened the Senate funding effort to China’s high-tech industrial development push, dubbed “Made in China 2025”, which long displeased the US.