- The US and China took the first steps toward halting a near-two-year-long trade war raging between the two countries, as President Trump signed an interim trade deal with China on Wednesday
- But although the first phase of the deal addressed intellectual property issues that American tech companies have complained about for years, the broader issues surrounding tech supremacy – which have fueled tensions between the two countries – remain largely unaddressed, according to some experts.
- Issues like China’s emerging dominance in AI and concerns over its human rights record – that was used as justification for some sanctions – were left unaddressed, one expert said.
- We should also expect to see the US push for stricter controls on tech trade with Huawei and China in the future, another expert said.
- In the meantime, expect to see the two nation’s tech industries to continue decoupling, they said.
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But while the pact eases some immediate hostilities, particularly in industries like agriculture and financials, it does little to resolve the underlying tensions around technology that have pitted the two countries against each other, according to some experts Business Insider spoke to.
American tech companies have long complained over the lack of intellectual property rights protections in China. But as technologies like AI and wireless communications have become increasingly vital to everything from national security to economic growth, the rivalry between the US and China has erupted into a full-fledged tech cold war.
Graham Webster, who leads a joint initiative between Stanford university and the think tank New America, focused on China’s digital policy, said that Wednesday’s deal brought good news regarding intellectual property protection. The pact commits China to crack down on the theft of American technology and corporate secrets by Chinese firms and state-owned organizations.
But this was a small concession for China, and in its own self-interest, Webster said. “The Chinese government was already on a trajectory of becoming more rule-based, and [implementing intellectual property rights] has become a matter of self-interest for the Chinese economy as its companies have become more advanced,” he said.
All the missing pieces
More importantly, the deal did not touch on the biggest issues fueling the tech cold war. “Phase 1 just didn’t get to most of the tech issues on the future of supply chain security and the ethical use of advanced security,” Webster said.
Adam Segal, a cybersecurity expert in the Council of Foreign relations, said that little change was coming to the tensions that have fueled the tech cold war.
“The trade deal doesn’t have much of an impact on tensions over AI or Huawei and the race to 5G,” Segal said. “There are still part of the White House that want to slow China’s tech development down and hobble Huawei, and we will continue to see US push for stricter controls on tech trade with Huawei and China more generally.”
Webster agreed with this assessment, and said that the Chinese government’s need to develop independent technology is only going to increase. “None of this is going away,” he said.
Here’s a look at the major battle lines in the China-US tech cold war that are still unresolved: