Opinions and Editorials

May. 5, 2020

RealClearPolicy: Is Our Own Government Siding Against Us in a New Cold War? by Judge Paul Michel

The country may not know it yet, but the U.S. is already embroiled in a new cold war — this time not over territory but over technological dominance. The winner will gain prosperity and security. The contest pits the U.S. against China to determine which nation will lead in the 21st century’s foundational technologies. These include Artificial Intelligence, 5G telecommunications, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and the new medical frontier of genetic cures, immuno-therapies and personalized drugs. Although the U.S. is currently holding on to the lead in many of them, the gap is closing fast, and China is massively investing while the US is not.

Years of cyber-hacking, industrial espionage, and employee theft of U.S. technology enabled China to gain the ability to leapfrog the U.S. China has made no secret of its intent, announced repeatedly in published plans, including its Made in China 2025 Plan: They are determined to surpass the U.S. in all these fields within the next 5 years.

China is supporting this effort by committing enormous governmental and private capital. And, its effort involves the whole government, with many coordinated parts that leverage private sector companies as well as state enterprises. The U.S., however, lacks any such plans, and it is not investing as it could.

In fact, our government’s funding of R&D as a proportion of GDP has declined steadily for decades. Private investment is now proportionally shifting away from technology such as computer chips toward entertainment and hospitality. And, it is flowing away from the U.S. to China and other counties that better protect investments with reliable patents.

Red flags abound. China excels in Artificial Intelligence and 5G. China has already replaced the U.S. as the most favored location for clinical trials of new cures, vaccines and diagnostics. It already manufactures a major share of the world’s drugs and diagnostics, and most pills sold here contain active pharmaceutical ingredients that originate in China. Do we really want to remain dependent on China for life-saving medical products?

Aside from technology theft and central planning, how did China make such fast progress? China spent the last decade strengthening its patent system while we kept weakening ours. The Supreme Court made some technologies, including diagnostic methods, no longer eligible for patenting. Today, although diagnostics are not eligible here, they are in China. Computer-implemented technologies are also under a cloud regarding patent eligibility. And in China, court enforcement is more reliable and far faster and cheaper than here. Non-monetary remedies are also stronger. Our Supreme Court made injunctions to bar further infringement rarely obtainable, while in China they are routine.