China’s high tech protectionism spooks US industry

US trade groups have criticised the Chinese government for suggesting that it may prioritise local vendors when buying technology.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Trade this week said the plan is intended to “provide distinct advantages to domestic companies and products or to force technology transfer if foreign players choose to participate”.

According to the Associated Press news agency, technology executives including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer raised the issue with the Obama administration in meetings last week.

Chinese authorities made the proposal last year as part of an overall strategy to promote “indigenous innovation”. Academics have questioned whether the plan would really disadvantage US companies, arguing that there would be opportunities for them to pursue joint ventures in the growing economy.

But the US reaction seems to reflect growing concern that the country may be losing its technological edge to the Asian giant. China has long been a manufacturing destination for the Western technology industry, and is now also a growing research and development base.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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