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.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

More Show less

For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

More Show less

As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

More Show less

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

Coronavirus

UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal