China Is Catching Up To America As A Global Innovator – And We’re To Blame

03/14/2017 10:09 am ET
Lintao Zhang via Getty Images

Since his inauguration, President Trump has continued to bash China for it’s unfair trade practices. He’s threatened to instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring cases against China domestically and at the World Trade Organization, to instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator, and to slap tariffs on Chinese goods.

Whether right or wrong, President Trump’s actions demonstrate that he recognizes there’s a problem and that we need to stand up to communist China. As a former member of Congress, I have come to the realization that China consistently cheats on the international stage by stealing American trade secrets, manipulating their currency, and illegally dumping subsidized products into the U.S.

However, it’s not just that China is cheating on the international stage – U.S. regulators are allowing China to play a greater role on the world stage by stifling American innovation. Changes in patent law conducted under the previous administration have made the United States a difficult place for innovators, and, thus, China is catching up to the United States as a global innovator.

Take a look at some new data regarding Chinese contributions to global mobile standards, which govern the wireless technology in our cell phones and laptops. The extent to which a company contributes to a standard is related to the number of patents they hold. If a country is making large contributions to mobile standards, it means that their companies are contributing the bulk of the intellectual property that goes into the standards that govern how our mobile technologies operate.

Since 2002, Chinese companies have played a growing role in mobile standard contributions, while the United States’ has largely remained stagnant. In 2004, China contributed 2% of all global mobile standards; in 2016, they contributed 34% of all standards, compared to the United States’ 19%.

U.S. legislators are handing over the reins of wireless innovation to the Chinese, and American leadership is at stake. We cannot allow communist China to suppress the United States in terms of global mobile standards and innovation.

To compete with China, we need a regulatory landscape that encourages American research and development, not one that stifles it. Companies like Google and Apple, who were close to the Obama Administration and have ties to the Trump Administration, have created a patent system that protects their interests while eliminating the incentives for other companies to invest in research and development. If there is no financial incentive for American companies to conduct the research and development necessary to contribute to global mobile standards, the only ones who will do so are those with non-financial motives – for example, the Chinese, who conduct R&D as a state-sponsored enterprise with a view to advancing China’s geopolitical goals.

It’s not only American leadership that is at stake, our national security is also at stake. With China playing a larger role in global standards, U.S. information security is at risk. China has stolen American intellectual property and trade secrets, and they are widely believed to have been responsible for the data breach that occurred at the Office of Personnel Management which targeted the records of an estimated 21.5 million Americans. Do we really want China, a country that regularly seeks to undermine the United States, to set global mobile standards? Does such a move truly benefit U.S. national security interests or does it leave us open to cyberattacks by a communist power that wants to control global mobile standards.

For now, it is unclear what changes will be made to the U.S. patent system under the Trump Administration. The Obama-era Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Michelle Lee, is allegedly still in charge of this organization, even though her close friends in Google recently took legal action against President Trump. Politics aside, it is clear that American innovation has stifled under her leadership. If the U.S. wants to remain a leader in global innovation, real reforms need to be made – reforms that encourage research and innovation rather than protecting the entrenched interests of Silicon Valley powerhouses.

With all this political talk of putting America First, now is the time to stop China’s march to dominate global innovation. President Trump and U.S. political leaders on both sides needs to stand up to China’s cheating and put American workers first.

Representative Klink was first elected to the United States Congress in 1992 and served four consecutive terms representing the 4th Congressional District of Pennsylvania.

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