Democrats and Republicans unite! At least against China.

Democrats and Republicans unite! At least against China.

This week, the US Senate passed the so-called Endless Frontier Act, a $250 billion investment in development of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the manufacture of semiconductors, and other tech-related sectors. The goal is to harness the combined power of America's public and private sectors to meet the tech challenges posed by China.

In its current form, this is the biggest diversion of public funds into the private sector to achieve strategic goals in many decades. The details of this package, and of the Senate vote, say a lot about US foreign-policy priorities and this bill's chances of becoming law.


Why did Democrats and Republicans agree to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars? The high-stakes tech competition with China is a threat both parties take seriously. Beijing is directing historic amounts of money toward development of AI and quantum computing technologies that experts say will determine the 21st century's balance of economic, political, and military power.

Just as the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, spurred a surge in US spending and new strategic thinking, Washington is now finally heeding warnings that China has taken a great tech leap forward. Democrats and Republicans may not agree on what aspect of China's rise worries them most, but leaders of both parties see a threat to US competitiveness and national security.

What's in the bill? It focuses mainly on tech, with $120 billion for research and development funding, $52 billion for domestic semiconductor production, and $20 billion for space programs. But it also promotes new strategies to counter China's global influence and punish its abuses at home. For example, it authorizes new sanctions in response to China's crackdown in Hong Kong, its use of forced labor in Xinjiang, its skill in cyber espionage, and its theft of intellectual property. The bill also commissions a new study about the origin of the pandemic and calls for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing by US officials -- though not by US athletes.

What does this bill say about the domestic politics of competition with China? President Biden heralded the news of the Senate passage with a warning for the future: "As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind. America must maintain its position as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth." It's safe to assume that "other countries" mainly means China since the bill explicitly labels that country's government the "greatest geopolitical and geoeconomic threat" to US foreign policy.

But it also makes clear there is strong bipartisan support for the Biden administration's position that the era of engagement with China is over. China's growing power has Washington's attention, and its military expansion, human rights abuses, and tech capabilities, and trade practices ensure there is something for everyone on Capitol Hill to oppose.

China has responded. An official statement says this bill is "full of Cold War thinking and ideological prejudice." It will now be easier for Xi to make the case at home that the US intends to stunt China's growth as a great power. US officials counter that years of unfair Chinese trade practices and President Xi Jinping's newly aggressive foreign policy are responsible for the sharp downturn in relations.

What happens next? The bill now heads for the House of Representatives where its fate is TBD. News coverage rightly focuses on the rarity of 68 Senate votes for any bill of this cost and ambition, but 32 senators voted against it, and their reasoning highlights partisan differences lurking beneath the bipartisan consensus which might force a rework in the lower house.

Thirty-one Republican senators opposed it. Some said it costs too much. Others said it should include funding for border security. Former Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders voted no to protest the amount of money the bill would move from US taxpayers to private-sector companies without enough accountability for how the money is spent. Other Democrats warn that its aggressiveness can make Cold War fears a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We won't know until autumn just how ambitious the final legislation will be, but the bipartisan Senate bill makes clear that the US-China rivalry will only become more intense.

What responsibility do wealthy nations have to ensure the least developed countries aren't left behind? Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak? Today at 11am ET/8am PT, join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live Global Stage discussion: Unfinished Business: Is the world really building back better?

The New Yorker's Susan Glasser will moderate a discussion with Brad Smith, President and Vice Chair, Microsoft; David Malpass, President, World Bank Group; Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media; and Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Watch LIVE today, Wednesday 9/22 at 11am ET/ 8am PT/ 5pm CEST at gzeromedia.com/globalstage.

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Betrayal. Treason. Duplicity. These are some of the words used by the French government to describe the US' recent decision to freeze Paris out of a new security pact with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which nixed a contract for Australia to buy French submarines.

Macron's subsequent tough stance against one of its oldest and closest allies is unusual, including his decision to briefly recall the French ambassador from Washington, the first time a French president has done so. But this headstrong strategy is also a deliberate diplomatic choice.

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1 billion: US House Democrats this week voted to cut $1 billion worth of military aid for Israel. The money — which was stuffed into a larger appropriations bill meant to fund the US government and raise the debt ceiling — was supposed to go specifically to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. The move sets up a showdown between progressives who want to slash US aid to Israel and the pro-Israel moderate wing of the party.

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Free internet for everyone sounds great, but what's really important is for it to be accessible, says Vickie Robinson, head of Microsoft's Airband Initiative to expand broadband access throughout the developing world. The problem, she explains, is that it costs money to build and maintain networks, so no costs for end users could have unintended consequences. "If you have a framework in which the internet is free for all, do we lose some freedoms? Do we lose innovation? Do we lose the use of the internet as a tool for empowerment?" Instead, Robinson would focus only on giving access to people who really need it and can't afford to be online.

Robinson weighed in during a Global Stage livestream conversation hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Microsoft during the 76th UN General Assembly.

Learn more: Should internet be free for everyone? A Global Stage debate

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

How will the QUAD leaders address the microchip supply chain issue during their meeting this week?

Well, the idea for leaders of the US, Japan, India, and Australia, is to collaborate more intensively on building secure supply chains for semiconductors, and that is in response to China's growing assertiveness. I think it's remarkable to see that values are becoming much more clearly articulated by world leaders when they're talking about governing advanced technologies. The current draft statement ahead of the QUAD meeting says that collaboration should be based on the rule of respecting human rights.

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On the one hand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres believes COVID has fractured trust between mainly rich and poor countries, especially on vaccines, as the pandemic "demonstrated our enormous fragility." On the other hand, it generated more trust in science, especially on climate — practically the only area, Guterres says, where the US and China can find some common ground these days. Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

Well, we're in the thick of "high-level week" for the United Nations General Assembly, known as UNGA. As always, the busiest few days in global diplomacy are about more than just speeches and hellish midtown traffic in Manhattan. Here are a few things we are keeping an eye on as UNGA reaches peak intensity over in Turtle Bay.

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Ahead of the 76th UN General Assembly, the US and the EU both agreed to cut methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by the end of the decade to reduce global warming. Will they convince other top emitters like China, Russia and India to do the same before the COP26 climate summit in November? This would be a big deal, because methane emissions, one-quarter of which come from agriculture, are the biggest contributors to climate change after carbon dioxide — and 80 times more potent in warming the planet. We take a look at the world's top methane emitters, compared with their respective carbon dioxide emissions.

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