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Chen Reviews the “ABC’s” of U.S.-China Digital Policy

Oct 30, 2019 |

In a recent article published in the September issue of the AsiaPacific Issues journal, Dr. Wenhong Chen discusses the unfolding AI, Big Data, and Cloud Computing (ABC) race between the United States and China. Dr. Chen’s analysis focuses specifically on two components: the comparative strength of the U.S. and China in data and research and development, and the state of ABC policies in both countries.

On the data and research side, Dr. Chen notes that while China is the global leader in e-commerce and maintains a digital economy second only to that of the United States, the quality of Chinese data may not as good as that of U.S. data. Further, the lack of data protection and other bad data practices may make it more difficult for Chinese firms to spread globally. China is also lagging behind the U.S. in terms of publication of high-quality original research in AI.

Dr. Chen then provides an ABC policy analysis for both China and the U.S. On the Chinese side, a “top-down, whole-of-government” approach continued to propel the “digital transformation” via undertakings in four dimensions: policy programs like the Made in China 2025 Plan; financial and institutional support; government control of major tech giants; the promotion of “cyber sovereignty” via control of data flows. On the U.S. side, government approach to AI development has three main characteristics: a far less articulate AI policy focusing primarily on national and economic security; a growing confrontational approach to China; and emerging interagency coordination.

Dr. Chen analyzes the policy pitfalls of both approaches, and provides recommendations for each countries’ approach moving forward. She concludes by noting that leaders in Washington will need to “gauge the costs and benefits of countering, containing, or engaging China as a strategic competitor,” while China will need to address its use of nationalism in stoking political support as well as the efficiency of state investment in emerging technologies. Read the full article here.