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To Stay Ahead on AI, the U.S. Needs to Work with China

The competition between the US and China for global dominance in artificial intelligence (AI) is intensifying. While the US currently leads in AI, China is catching up rapidly, with a goal to become the global leader in AI by 2030. To maintain its lead, the US needs to work with China to retain its disproportionate benefit from Chinese human talent and computing hardware, while breaking problematic ties. However, US policymakers have been selectively decoupling the two countries’ intertwined AI ecosystems, blacklisting Chinese tech firms, and slapping export controls. To preserve the US’s technological leadership while not cutting off Chinese talent flows, the US should allow Chinese scientists to continue studying at US universities and protecting US hardware to maintain China’s dependence on US technology. China currently produces the most top AI scientists in the world, but many of them are trained in the US and stay in the US, offering the US a brain gain while being a brain drain for China. The US should retain commercial links with China while denying sales for military applications or human rights abuses, thereby keeping China’s dependence on US technology, which could be a useful tool in the US-China technology competition. Pure decoupling is a weak strategy for the US in the long-term technology competition with China.

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