Even before the economic turmoil now exacerbated by the Russian-Ukrainian war, the U.S. and China have been locked in a technology battle that has raised concerns not only in Washington, DC but throughout the country over economic competition and national security. While the U.S. leads in software and semiconductors, China clearly comes out on top when it comes to smartphones and the 5G network, as well as in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and a wealth of other technologies. As the Chinese technology market increasingly distances itself from the West, this feeds existing tensions between China and the U.S.

According to a post on The Diolomat.com, the U.S. government, in an effort to constrain or relay China’s technology advancements, has taken a series of measures and sanctions against Chinese tech companies, since President Biden took office, Congress, the government, and several key think tanks have released 209 bills, policies, and reports concerning science and technology policies toward China. Huawei, one of China’s preeminent communications manufacturers, is one of the largest targets of U.S. sanctions. In 2020, a new regulation prohibits any entity from supplying chips with U.S. technology to Huawei, yet the company continues to generate revenue. The diversity of the business environment reflects the complexity of the China-U.S. economic and trade relationship. While the two countries are independent, nonetheless, they cannot completely sever ties, and economic and trade sanctions will bring huge losses to both.

Jacob Helberg, who led Google’s global internal product policy efforts to combat disinformation from 2016 to 2020, has written a book entitled “The Wires of War: Technology and the Global Struggle for Power,” in which he calls the power struggle between China and the U.S. a “gray war.” 

Helberg told Axios.com there is a battle to control what users see on their screens, including information and software, and a “backend” battle to control the internet’s hardware, including 5G networks, fiber-optic cables, and satellites. He believes that this technology-driven war will influence the balance of power for the coming century, as without a solid partnership with the government, technology companies are unable to protect democracy from autocrats looking to sabotage it, from Beijing to Moscow and Tehran. To win this skirmish, Helberg suggests using trade policy and alliances to form a free and secure internet and information infrastructure, and the capability to levy what he calls “cyber sanctions” that restrict access to technologies and platforms controlled by hostile foreign governments.

America may believe that it can maintain its technological edge, but China is spending a significant amount of money on high-tech research. According to a post on ABC.net, China has announced a five-year plan worth $1.8 trillion to monopolize AI, robotics, 6G, and other new technologies by 2035.

James Green, former minister for trade affairs at the U.S. embassy in China, predicts that the tech war that grew during the Trump administration is not going to be resolved any time soon.

“Some of the issues, particularly around technology and technology ecosystems, are ones that will be with us for years to come,” he says.