OP-ED: Out-compete China with tech freedom
December 15, 2021
China has a plan. It wants to be the dominant technology country by 2035. If you look, it’s clear to see how they’re executing on that plan. They’re massively investing in hardware and software development to catch up to, and eventually overtake, the United States. If they’re successful, we’ll experience serious ramifications for our economy and national security.
We’ve been the world technological leader for so long it’s understandable that many
Americans take it for granted. What’s amazing is it happened without any state-backed central plan—it emerged from the marketplace of ideas and innovation. The technological progress driven bottom-up by American entrepreneurs has resulted in unprecedented prosperity throughout the world.
China has a different vision. The Chinese Communist Party brand of technological
innovation is not designed to increase prosperity; it’s motivated by maximizing state
power. Power both over their own people and on the world stage.
Increasingly, Americans are recognizing the threat that China represents. It’s time for our policymakers to take notice as well and begin to implement policy that treats this threat with the gravity it deserves.
That starts with not tying our hands behind our back with policy that would make U.S.-based technology companies less competitive and innovative. Consumer protection policy changes should be considered, but proposed legislation that would radically alter established publishing and moderation policy is a glaring example of the wrong direction to take. Privacy and free speech protections for companies to create their desired product should remain. An individual’s decision to use that product or not should continue to be the driver of the free market, not the government.
Beyond preventing self-imposed impediments to American tech companies, we also need proactive measures to confront China and hold them accountable. It’s well known they’ve facilitated cybercrime and stolen intellectual property from American companies. And we’ve had to go to great lengths to ensure that CCP-backed companies like Huawei and TikTok do not damage our national security.
These defensive tactics are necessary, but we should also be going on the offensive by holistically enhancing the competitiveness of American tech companies.
It matters for Montana’s future too as our technology economy has begun to take off. According to the Montana Business Quarterly, Montana’s tech sector grew seven times faster than any other sector last year. Another analysis found that the median wage for tech workers in Montana is 65% higher than that of all other occupations. Montana is adding tech jobs faster than most other states, and that trend is expected to accelerate. Tech investment is happening in Montana and it will have positive implications throughout the state. But that can only continue if the United States can maintain its competitive edge and remain the dominant technological force.
And to keep that edge, policymakers must embrace what got us here in the first place. The United States is today the dominant technology country because we, more than anywhere in the world, have championed innovation and entrepreneurship. We must continue to give innovators the space they need without excessive regulation.
The dynamic marketplace of ideas that exists in the United States is our trump card. It can and will beat China’s central planning approach, but only if we allow it to operate freely.
Kenneth Bogner is a Marine Corps veteran and Republican state senator from Miles City.