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.
This graphic depicts key issues between the United States and China, as identified by the United States as of January 26, 2019. This is not an exhaustive depiction, but captures key categories and sub-categories of Chinese state and private practices, state policies, and state structural characteristics that are the subject of U.S. government complaints (as raised from within and outside of the Trump Administration).
If there remain doubts that the U.S.-China trade war and technology war present real risks for U.S. colleges and universities, a recent report that a U.S. university has secured insurance against the risk of material reductions in Chinese student enrollment should put those doubts to bed. The risks are so real that they are insurable.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently launched an initiative to “Combat Chinese Economic Espionage.” Announced on November 1, 2018 by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the China Initiative acts on the Trump Administration’s previous findings “concerning China’s practices” and “reflects the Department’s strategic priority of countering Chinese national security threats and reinforces the President’s overall national security strategy.” The China Initiative presents emerging issues for academia, the technology industry, and the private sector broadly.
Fundamental research is excluded from export controls jurisdiction. But given growing concerns about alleged Chinese "academic espionage" at American universities and transfers to China of U.S. scientific and technological information and know-how, including through Chinese students, researchers, and others in fundamental and research pipelines, this excerpt is re-posted separately as foreign (particularly Chinese) access to and participation in U.S. fundamental research may be curbed by non-export controls means.
The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, has begun the process of identifying "emerging technologies" that are essential to national security and, consequently, require export control. New export controls on emerging technologies could be burdensome, depending on the content of regulations and the manner of their enforcement. If the new regulatory regime is burdensome to the point that it prohibits (legally or practically) some emerging technology transfers to foreign parties, companies and others involved in emerging technologies-- particularly their development--may seek arrangements, without evading or otherwise violating ECRA or applicable regulations, to ease collaborations and other engagement with foreign parties, including by some form of technology inversion.
The Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security on Nov. 19 published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on the “Review of Controls for Certain Emerging Technologies.” The ANPRM implements the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 and raises diverse legal, regulatory, policy, and commercial issues that cut across sectors and industries. Commerce seeks to advance national security goals without harming the United States’ capacity to lead in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. This Regulatory Update provides analysis of the ANPRM, the relevant legal framework, and considerations for commentators.
Measures to curb foreign access to U.S. technology have taken and will likely take various forms that will cut across industries and legal disciplines. Among them, as discussed below, are restrictions on foreign access to and influence on U.S. technology through (1) foreign investment, (2) supply chain exclusions, (3) limits on participation in academic and other research, (4) legal or political curbs on U.S. technology access or transfers through third countries, and (5) countermeasures against foreign control of raw materials essential to technological manufacturing and innovation.
The sentiments expressed by Senator Rubio and others reflect commercial, competition, policy, and strategic concerns held by business, policy makers, defense and national security officials, and others about China and Chinese firms like ZTE and Huawei. But when raised in the context of and as a justification for a specific legal enforcement action, the sentiments blur the lines between what should primarily be an enforcement based on facts and applicable laws, rather than an instrument for advancing wider policy objectives that are not specifically advanced by the laws applicable to the conduct for which ZTE was penalized. And, while Secretary Ross' stated rationale to impose the harsher penalty to change ZTE's behavior may have been sound, the recommendation of the career professionals with expertise in sanctions and export controls enforcement should, perhaps, have carried the day. Secretary Ross' description of the process leading to the export ban and the mess that has followed it give more reason to ask whether, in the first place, the export ban was the appropriate remedy as a matter of applicable laws and the objectives served by them.
Much of the talk of trade war between the United States and China, and perhaps other countries, has focused on traditional trade measures and counter-measures like tariffs that strike at the core of international trade: most basically, the movement of goods and services across international borders. But there are two additional fronts of a U.S.-China trade war (thus far): intellectual property and the use of U.S. sanctions and other laws to "coerce and deter" economic rivals like China.