In a significant move with far-reaching implications, President Joe Biden has wielded his executive authority to sign an order that restricts new U.S. investment in China’s critical technology sectors. The order, issued on Wednesday, takes a proactive stance by imposing limitations on investments in areas of sensitive technology, such as computer chips, and mandates government notification for other tech domains.
The long-anticipated executive order by Biden grants the U.S. Treasury secretary the power to curb or prohibit U.S. investments in Chinese entities operating in three key sectors: semiconductors and microelectronics, quantum information technologies, and certain artificial intelligence systems.
While the Biden administration has clarified that the restrictions would apply to specific, targeted segments within these three sectors, it has refrained from offering explicit details. A notable aspect of this order is its openness to public input, allowing stakeholders to contribute to the shaping of these pivotal investment constraints.
The central objective of this order is to safeguard American capital and expertise from inadvertently bolstering China’s technological advancements that could potentially bolster its military capabilities, posing a potential threat to U.S. national security. The order encompasses a wide range of investment avenues, including private equity, venture capital, joint ventures, and greenfield investments.
President Biden, a Democrat, emphasized the urgency of the situation in a letter addressed to Congress, declaring a national emergency to counter the potential threat posed by countries like China, particularly in sensitive technologies crucial to military, intelligence, surveillance, or cyber-enabled capabilities.
China, in response to president Biden’s executive order, expressed deep concern about the executive order, asserting its reserved right to take appropriate measures. The Chinese Commerce Ministry issued a statement highlighting how the order’s impact extends to normal business operations and decision-making processes within enterprises. The ministry contends that such restrictions disrupt the international economic and trade order, creating hurdles for the global economic recovery.
Further amplifying the discord, the Chinese foreign ministry voiced strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the U.S.’s persistent insistence on introducing investment restrictions targeting China. It also lodged formal complaints with the U.S., urging the fulfillment of President Biden’s promise to maintain economic ties and not hinder China’s economic development.
In a separate statement, Hong Kong’s government expressed disapproval of the restrictions, branding them as unreasonable measures against the special administrative region of China. The government of Hong Kong contended that these actions hamper normal investment and trade activities and cast a shadow on economic growth prospects.
The core focus of the proposal revolves around investments in Chinese companies specializing in software for designing computer chips and tools for their manufacturing. The regulation takes aim at crucial domains where the U.S., Japan, and the Netherlands currently maintain dominance. These measures come as a response to China’s ongoing efforts to establish indigenous alternatives in these fields.
By soliciting feedback from Group of Seven (G7) nations and consulting with allies, the White House and president Biden aimed to bolster the plan’s credibility and effectiveness. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized that the move was critical to curb the inflow of American capital that inadvertently contributes to China’s military advancements.
Notably, these regulations will solely impact future investments, leaving existing arrangements unaffected. However, the U.S. Treasury has indicated the possibility of requesting disclosure for prior transactions.
As the tension between the two largest global economies intensifies, the Chinese embassy in Washington expressed profound disappointment in response to the executive order. While U.S. officials clarified that the restrictions are tailored to address critical national security concerns, rather than aiming to sever their closely intertwined economies, these measures could potentially strain diplomatic and economic relations.
Critics from the Republican party, including Senator Marco Rubio, criticized the order from president Biden for being replete with loopholes and argued that it does not go far enough to address key concerns, including the dual-use nature of certain technologies and critical industries according to China’s assessment.
The order’s implementation, expected in the coming year, will involve multiple rounds of public input, including an initial 45-day comment period, offering stakeholders an opportunity to shape its final contours.
Emily Benson from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan policy research organization, highlighted the importance of understanding the plan’s implications on U.S. allies and China’s responses, underscoring the multifaceted ramifications of this bold executive action.