Tech wars: US-China technology competition and what it means for Australia

Business innovation Information technology Research and development Science United States of America China Australia

Technology is the defining element of the United States’ growing strategic competition with China which Donald Trump first announced in 2017. The slow disentangling of technological integration between the United States and China that this competition entails will have significant consequences for allies like Australia, who are closely coupled with the United States’ scientific and technological infrastructure.

While many have focused on the manufacturing and supply chain aspects of this competition, the US Government has also set about expanding its definition of what constitutes the industries, individuals and knowledge of its national security innovation base. This enlarged understanding, and the beginnings of a whole-of-government approach through various reforms and initiatives, will transform the terms of globalisation, international supply chains and even the US-Australia alliance. The likely result will be a further step in the transformation of the alliance from a purely geopolitical arrangement to a geoeconomic one as well.

Key points:

  • Technology is now the defining element of the Trump administration’s self-professed “strategic competition” with China.
  • Congress and the Trump administration have embarked on a ponderous — and at times heavy-handed — effort to protect America’s technological advantage across multiple domains and through actions by several branches of government.
  • Australia will be significantly affected by Washington’s unravelling of the US-China technological relationship, owing to its deep enmeshment with America’s scientific infrastructure.
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