The United States Senate on Monday advanced a bill that would provide billions of dollars in government funding for technology research as part of a legislative measure to counter China amid strained ties and fierce competition between the two countries.
The Senate voted 84-11 to move ahead with the Endless Frontiers Act introduced by Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, which seeks up to USD 100 billion over five years for basic and advanced tech research and another USD 10 billion to create new technology hubs across the country, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP).
This move has cleared the way for the Senate to vote on the bill's passage.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation had voted to approve the Endless Frontier Act on Thursday, as a consensus is emerging in the US that the country must do more planning to deal with China's strategic technological challenge.
The bill, if passed, would start a new high-level office to oversee the development of technologies including artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum computing and biotechnology.
"Members on both sides of the aisle know that decades of federal underinvestment in science and technology have imperilled America's global economic leadership," Schumer said ahead of the vote.
"Holding the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable for its years of rapacious economic policies and theft of American ingenuity will help create a level playing field that American workers have lacked for decades," he added.
According to SCMP, China spent a record USD 340 billion on R & D in 2019, representing 2.2 per cent of the country's GDP - a record high, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The Endless Frontier Act represents concern over China and is one of the very few areas where Democrats and Republicans agree. The legislation is aimed at countering China, which lawmakers are expecting to combine into a larger bill that addresses all of the US government's friction points with Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021, sponsored by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republican Representative Jim Risch, is also under consideration. The proposed legislation seeks to add new sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The Menendez-Risch bill would also strengthen US ties with Taiwan, and try to limit Beijing's military operations and territorial claims in the South China Sea and beyond, according to SCMP.
Last month, in his first State of the Union address to Congress, US President Joe Biden called his multi-trillion proposal for domestic investment as key to challenging China and strengthening the US's position on the world stage.
"We're in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st Century. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better. Throughout our history, public investments and infrastructure have transformed America," Biden said.
He also said that Chinese President Xi Jinping is "deadly earnest on becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world".
Under the former President Donald Trump's administration, ties between the two countries had deteriorated over issues such as human rights violations in Xinjiang, encroachment on the special status of Hong Kong, accusations of unfair trade practices by Beijing, lack of transparency concerning the pandemic and China's military aggression in various parts of the world.
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