US officials use autonomous vehicles as another reason to crack down on China, holding back technology to hurt US companies

An autonomous vehicle is on a driverless test on a road in Yizhuang of Beijing, capital of China, Oct 19, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

An autonomous vehicle is on a driverless test on a road in Yizhuang of Beijing, capital of China, Oct 19, 2021. Photo:Xinhua

US officials are targeting autonomous vehicle companies as another flag to show their attempt to curb China’s technological rise, citing so-called “national security concerns,” making the list of Chinese companies targeted under the tech campaign even longer.

The attempt comes after a Congressional panel examined investments by US companies in Chinese artificial intelligence and semiconductor companies, showing that the US is hysterically and unscrupulously suppressing all innovative technology fields in which Chinese companies are active, Chinese experts said, adding that so-called national security is an “excuse” and US company interests will be hurt instead.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Thursday that his agency has national security concerns about Chinese autonomous vehicle companies in the American market, after some lawmakers called for restrictions on their operations, Reuters reported.

“Whether we’re talking about hardware or software, in the same way there are concerns around telecom or TikTok, there are concerns around transportation technologies,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Reuters.

Also, US lawmakers will look to begin long-stalled legislation on the safe and controlled adoption of self-driving cars at a congressional hearing on July 26. Legislation in Congress has been stalled for more than five years on how to amend regulations to cover self-driving cars, including the scope of consumer and legal protections.

China’s autonomous driving technology has developed rapidly, and it has taken a different technical route compared to the US, and has even surpassed US companies in some fields, causing jealousy and anxiety from some American politicians, Zhang Xiang, a visiting professor at the Engineering Department of Huanghe Science and Technology University, told the Global Times on Friday.

Zhang believes that this shows their concerns over the rapid development of China’s autonomous driving technology, and the main goal is to limit road testing and research and development by Chinese companies in the US, and even eventually force these companies to withdraw from the US.

In other words, the US will not try to suppress any innovative technological fields such as capital, talent, market and technology in which Chinese companies are active, Zhang Xiaorong, director of the Beijing-based Cutting-Edge Technology Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday.

The comments from the US Transportation Secretary came after several visits from US officials, including climate envoy John Kerry, who ended a four-day visit on Wednesday for discussions on climate issues in China.

This is the third time in a month that a high-level US official has traveled to China for talks, following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The number of visits sends a positive signal that China and the US are maintaining the good momentum of high-level communication, Chinese analysts said, but this does not mean that China-US economic and trade cooperation is stable, as the main obstacle is the US’s continued blockade and “decoupling” from China in high technologies, experts said.

A US House of Representatives committee has launched an investigation into investments by four US venture capital firms in Chinese artificial intelligence and semiconductor companies, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The Biden administration is considering new rules that would restrict the flow of US investments to Chinese companies working on advanced semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

These actions by the US government and Congress are not based on any consideration of national security, but are all pretexts, Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday, adding that they are more than an action to prevent and suppress China’s normal development on the basis of security.

That crackdown will hurt the interests of US investors or companies, because those actions are against the market economy and will surely fail, Gao added.

Executives of top US chipmakers, including Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia, met with Biden administration officials on Monday, urging a halt to more chip export restrictions targeting China, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

“We encourage the [Biden] administration to hold off on further restrictions until it more broadly engages with industry and experts to assess the impact of current and potential restrictions,” the US-based Semiconductor Industry Association said on Monday.

Xie Feng, China’s Ambassador to the US, said at the Aspen Security Forum on Wednesday that China is opposed to conducting a trade war or technological war under the pretext of competition. China has never shied away from competition, but the “competition” defined by the US is unfair.

We oppose both the iron curtain and the silicon curtain, Xie added, and we are the last to want a tit-for-tat cycle. To date, more than 1,300 Chinese entities and individuals have been placed on US sanctions lists. As a result, many Chinese workers were put out of work, and their families suffered greatly. The Chinese people will not remain silent, and the Chinese government will not sit back, he said.

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