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Top US Democrats push for bill to counter China

screenshot 2021 02 23 211922
The Biden administration has said it is conducting a review of China programs and promised a tough but more multilateral approach to Beijing

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday he has directed lawmakers to craft a package of measures to counter China’s rise, capitalizing on bipartisan hardline sentiment on Beijing in Congress to strengthen the U.S. tech sector and counter unfair practices.

Schumer said at a weekly press conference that he has directed committees to craft a bipartisan bill based on legislation he proposed last year seeking funding of $100 billion to spur research in key tech areas, from artificial intelligence to quantum computing and semiconductors.

This year’s package would target investment in U.S. manufacturing, science and technology, supply chains and semiconductors, Schumer said.

As part of the package, senators are also looking at providing emergency funding to implement bipartisan semiconductor programs included in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which sets overall U.S. military spending and the Pentagon policies backed up by that spending.

The legislative drive comes as Republican China hawks have stepped up pressure on Democratic President Joe Biden to stick to his Republican predecessor Donald Trump’s hardline policies on Beijing.

The Biden administration has said it is conducting a review of China programs and promised a tough but more multilateral approach to Beijing. But Biden has shed little light on his plans for everything from Trump’s moves against Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to a U.S. investment ban on Chinese companies with suspected links to the country’s military.

The announcement also comes as some U.S. automakers have slowed production due to a shortage of semiconductor chips, scarce in part due to a pandemic-era boom in consumer appetite for more cell phones and computers.

Under the prior legislation that the bill would be modeled on, the $100 billion in funding would be funneled over 5 years through a new technology directorate to be installed at the National Science Foundation. Under that proposal, an additional $10 billion would be set aside for technology hubs.

The new package would also aim to secure technology and strategic alliances to counter China.

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