U.S. Controls Over Foreign Access to and Influence on Technology and Research in 2020: A Quick Guide U.S. companies, academic and research institutions, and individuals are facing greater scrutiny and regulation of their activities with foreign parties involving U.S. technology and…
On August 14, President Trump ordered ByteDance to divest its assets and interests in TikTok. What happens if ByteDance does not comply? The question may seem academic, given historical compliance with divestment orders and ByteDance’s talks with U.S. companies about TikTok’s sale. But a recent legal move by China—its expansion of a list of technologies that require government approval for export, including apparently in a sale of TikTok—renders real the issue of non-compliance with the August 14 divestment order, and potentially raises unprecedented issues.
Perceiving China’s technological ascendance as a threat, the United States has imposed defensive legal measures, including export controls, to curb foreign access to U.S. technology by illicit and lawful means. The approach has bipartisan backing across the U.S. government.
The September 1 tariffs effective date is close in time to the expiration of the Temporary General License partially easing restrictions on Huawei. The state of U.S.-China trade talks around the expiry of the 90-day license may influence further actions. U.S. and foreign companies subject to export controls should be mindful of the potential links.
After talks with China’s president at the G20 summit in Japan, President Trump announced on June 29 that “he would allow” U.S. companies to continue to sell “product” to Huawei. The statement, construed by some as a “concession” or “reversal” of U.S. policy toward Huawei, has generated confusion and disagreement from China “hawks” in Congress and elsewhere. This rundown of Huawei legal and policy issues discusses the presidential statement, its lack of legal effect to date, its context, and why technology industry stakeholders need to understand the complete U.S.-China technology picture to navigate developments and mitigate risk.
China might take a targeted approach to any restrictions on rare earth elements that echoes, or effectively duplicates, the approach of the United States, which is to control exports based on "end use" and "end user" where one or both conflict with or potentially undermine U.S. national security interests (which include technological leadership and economic security).
The U.S. government has adopted and is implementing a “whole-of-government” strategy to counter China. The whole-of-government approach entails a range of legal and policy measures to curb China’s access to U.S. technology, by lawful and unlawful means. These measures include, but are not limited to, stricter curbs on foreign investment in U.S. technology; restrictions on exports of “emerging technologies” like artificial intelligence; exclusions of Chinese firms from U.S. government and private supply chains through company bans; prosecutions of intellectual property theft; measures to counter “academic espionage” in American academic and research institutions; and, indirectly, and, indirectly, sanctions enforcement.
The United States has adopted a whole-of-government approach to counter China’s “economic aggression” or “economic espionage,” umbrella terms that encompass a range of conduct including IP theft, forced technology transfer, academic espionage, and influence operations in the United States. The whole-of-government approach illustrates that the most strategically significant and complex confrontation between the United States and China is not the “trade war.” Rather, the race to dominate future technologies like artificial intelligence and 5G underpins the most complex legal and policy issues between the two nations. The U.S.-China tech war, and the United States’ whole-of-government strategy, has put Chinese technology companies under the hot light of U.S. legal and political scrutiny. Companies like Huawei and ZTE, relative unknowns in the United States until recently, have found themselves on the wrong side of U.S. law enforcement.
The “Protect Our Universities Act of 2019” is a a bill “to create a task force within the Department of Education to address the threat of foreign government influence and threats to academic research integrity on college campuses, and for other purposes." Among other things, the Bill would restrict foreign student participation in federally funded academic research deemed "sensitive" to national security.
On national security grounds, the United States is developing and implementing a whole-of-government approach to maintain the country’s technological edge through legal and policy measures to restrict Chinese access to U.S. technology and intellectual property, including by: (1) limiting or prohibiting certain foreign investment and commercial transactions; (2) adopting export controls on emerging technologies; (3) instituting supply chain exclusions; (4) curbing participation in academic and other research; and (5) combating cyber intrusions and industrial and academic espionage. Additionally, concerns about Chinese government influence have spurred proposals to regulate the activities of entities viewed as Chinese government influence operators.