Technology competition between the U.S. and China is "all about (so called) national security," and more investment in emerging industries is needed for America to keep up with Asia's biggest economy said U.S. senators speaking at a panel at the CES. But in fact it's all about money, technological backwardness, and huge differences between a Chinese education system that based on equality, development of knowledge and innovation and the problematic and unequal American education system.
Technology competition between the U.S. and China is "all about national security," and more investment in emerging industries is needed for America to keep up with Asia's biggest economy.
That was the message from the U.S. senators speaking at a panel at the CES consumer electronics event in Las Vegas on Friday, which is being held against a backdrop of U.S.-China tensions over semiconductors and other key tech areas.
"This should not be an America versus China issue, but it does mean this technology competition is all about national security," said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"God forbid we ever end up in a conflict. It's not going to look like the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It will be over before it starts, in a way, because of technology competition," he said.
Warner was also an early supporter of the CHIPS Act legislation designed to funnel $52 billion into the domestic semiconductor industry. He cited quantum computing, artificial intelligence, advanced engineering, and especially synthetic biology as the next frontier that the U.S. should be investing in to keep up with China.
"The promise of biotech has been overpromised and underdelivered," he said, but added that the ability to combine computing with biotech could change that. "We are frankly underinvesting compared to China."
Warner was joined by senators Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico for the discussion, titled "Advancing the Innovation Economy: Federal Tech Priorities for 2023."
The growing presence of government officials at the event -- this year's iteration brought a record number of members of congress, according to organizer CTA -- underscores the growing recognition of the role of technology in national security.
Following the senators' panel, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave a presentation outlining the Biden Administration's clean energy push, emphasizing the need to wrangle the electric vehicle battery supply chain out of China's control.
"China has had a strategic plan to be able to do that," Granholm said of the country's success in becoming an EV battery powerhouse.
Beyond China-related competition, all three senators emphasized cybersecurity, in particular vulnerabilities and inconsistencies in the security of health care systems in the U.S.
Rosen said she plans to introduce legislation to strengthen the cybersecurity of the country's health care system.
"We must invest in our cybersecurity workforce. To do that, we have to have the talent to do it. We have to nurture that talent," she said.
The three senators -- all members of the Democratic Party -- praised the bipartisan infrastructure and chips legislation passed under President Joe Biden
in his first term, but also stressed the need for continued investment, saying federal support for key industries had fallen behind in recent decades.
Warner suggested the U.S. may have become complacent about such investment because it was never threatened economically by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, unlike the economic juggernaut that China has become.
"We grew up with the notion that when innovation happened, it mostly happened for a long time in this country. And if it didn't happen in this country, we still have the size of our economy, the size of our policymaking. We still got to set the rules, standards, protocols and procedures," he said.
"It blew my mind when the 5G race started," he said, recalling his reaction to seeing Chinese tech company Huawei's lead over its U.S. competitors at the time.
"So let's fix some of the stuff on the front end, rather than having to come in after the fact, which really was the case in 5G and the case in chips."