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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

The report, called "Asymmetric Competition: A Strategy for China & Technology," was authored by an informal working group formed last summer with 15 participants writing in their private capacities, including:

  • Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and technical adviser at Alphabet, and co-founder of Schmidt Futures. (Google exited China in 2010 while Schmidt was CEO).
  • Jared Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw, a tech incubator created by Google, and former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
  • Richard Fontaine, the CEO of the Center for a New American Security, whose co-founder Kurt Campbell now occupies a top position on Biden's National Security Council.
  • Liz Economy, China scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
  • Alexandr Wang, CEO and founder at Scale AI.
  • Marissa Giustina, a quantum electronic engineer at Google.

What they're saying: "America’s technological leadership is fundamental to its security, prosperity, and democratic way of life. But this vital advantage is now at risk, with China surging to overtake the United States in critical areas," the authors write.

  • The report "advances policies that position the United States to out-compete China without inviting escalatory cycles of confrontation, retaliation, or unintended conflict."

The nature of the challenge, according to the report:

  • The competition is "asymmetric," meaning "China plays by a different set of rules that allow it to benefit from corporate espionage, illiberal surveillance, and a blurry line between its public and private sector."
  • We're heading towards separate tech spheres. "Some degree of disentangling is both inevitable and preferable," the authors write. "In fact, trends in both countries — and many of the tools at our disposal — inherently and necessarily push toward some degree of bifurcation." That's because the alternative to bifurcation is a world in which China's non-democratic norms have "won."
  • There will be trade-offs, such as between "creating risk-tolerant research environments that encourage innovation versus security/espionage risks."

Their proposed solutions:

  • The creation of a national tech analysis and forecasting center.
  • Building more resilient supply chains by investing in domestic infrastructure and "ally-centric production."
  • Improving education and reducing immigration bottlenecks to ensure a strong supply of highly skilled labor.
  • A government redesign across the executive branch to guide a "new era of technological statecraft."
  • New multilateral initiatives, including an alliance of democracies called the "T-12" to coordinate responses to tech competition, an "International Technology Finance Corporation," and the creation of "multilateral trust zones" where integration can be safely achieved.

What to watch: Whether or not the proposal gets traction in the Biden administration, its emphasis on multilateralism fits with the administration's goals and priorities.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect that the report's authors were writing in their private capacities and that Eric Schmidt is also a co-founder of Schmidt Futures.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Global data-driven change

On Thursday, January 27, Axios' Ina Fried hosted a conversation on the social impact of Big Data, featuring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and former U.S. chief technology officer and founder and CEO of shift7, Megan Smith.

Megan Smith. unpacked how data can help solve some of the biggest equity issues across our economy and society today, and the importance of having everyone at the table.

  • On solving social issues that are exacerbated by new technologies: "It's just not for the tech community to decide [how to fix this] on behalf of all of us, especially because they face extraordinary bias in their hiring practices and their teams' dismissiveness of people who are not of a certain group."
  • On how the government should approach solving problems that cross technological and policy divides: "The key there is less about what and more about who. Who is in the government teams, who is actually in the tech teams? Are they more balanced? How do we get more of society at the table together so that we're more fluent as we work on this?"

Rep. Yvette Clarke highlighted the risks and rewards of using Big Data, as well as the shared responsibility of the public and private sectors to keep the public informed.

  • On how algorithms can amplify existing biases: "[Big Data] can be great in making advances in our civil society. The other side is it can become a mirror of some of the inequities that exist in the real world...and that reflection can be programmed into algorithms."
  • On a balanced approach to technology regulation: "I really want to make sure that the public is educated and informed...[That] we also hold the companies accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate harm in certain respects and reward where they're doing good."

Axios' Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Intel Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Sandra Rivera to discuss collaboration and creating change from within the tech industry.

  • "We have convened other industry leaders to really drive meaningful, lasting change forward. This is such a big challenge and opportunity. It doesn't really work that any one company can do [it] alone: We take our role in terms of leading that work by participating, collaborating with other tech giants."

Thank you Intel for sponsoring this event.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
38 mins ago - Energy & Environment

IEA analysis charts "narrow" pathway to Paris climate goal

Photovoltaic solar panels at the power plant in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, southeastern France. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

The pathway for transforming global energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 is "narrow but still achievable" and demands unprecedented acceleration away from fossil fuels, an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday concludes.

Why it matters: It provides detailed analysis and estimates of what's needed for a good shot at limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels — the Paris Agreement benchmark for avoiding some of the most damaging effects of climate change.

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Deadly Cyclone Tauktae leaves trail of destruction across India

A police officer helps a public transport driver cross a flooded street due to heavy rain caused by Tropical Cyclone Tauktae in Mumbai, India, on May 17. Photo: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae killed at least 16 people in India after making landfall in Gujarat Monday, packing 100mph winds, and sweeping across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, per Reuters.

The big picture: The storm unleashed heavy rains and winds as authorities continued to grapple with surging infection rates and deaths from COVID-19. Over 200,000 people were evacuated from Gujarat, and ports, airports and vaccination centers shut in the state and Mumbai, Reuters reports. Tauktae weakened from a Category 3 storm into a "severe cyclonic storm" Tuesday morning local time.