Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The U.S.-China Tech Rivalry: Don't Decouple - Diversify

| Mar. 03, 2022


The U.S. is grappling with increasingly challenging transnational technology, policy, and security issues, which are complicated further by the economic and supply chain relationships with China. As the Biden administration and Congress look at developing policy solutions that will both reduce dependence on China and strengthen the United States’ resilience, it is important that these policies form a larger, holistic strategy that articulates the national security narrative clearly. 

The Chinese government’s unfair international trade practices, malicious cyber activities, and intellectual property theft record are all problematic to U.S. national security, and policymakers have an imperative to address these issues. However, some American policy debates oversimplify these issues with broad policy measures in response to these complex topics—as technological and economic decoupling with China accelerates. These policies are well meaning, and while decoupling thus far has been relatively piecemeal, the U.S. should be judicious in its policy actions and consider long-term interests. Moreover, these policies must form a holistic strategy informed by a clear and consistent national security narrative, considerations on foreign availability, and the consequences for shaping global standards.

The economic and supply chain ties with China indeed raise challenging national security questions, but at the same time, the U.S. should not aim for decoupling broadly with China without ensuring its private sector can remain competitive on the global stage. To balance national security and economic interests, the U.S. must use narrow, objective, and consistent national security frameworks that focus on the most critical risks. It is also imperative for the U.S. to focus on strengthening its own technology leadership by investing in critical and emerging technologies, protecting key values and privacy, and collaborating with global partners and allies to advance U.S. competitiveness and national security.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Lee, Alexa. “The U.S.-China Tech Rivalry: Don't Decouple - Diversify.” Paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 3, 2022.