WASHINGTON, DC: As Beijing works toward its China Standards 2035 strategy to expand its influence and gain dominance over the technology sector, a new report released today by the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center and published in partnership with the American Edge Project details the durability of Standard Developing Organizations (SDOs), as well as the need for Washington to support our domestic technology sector and “help ensure that new technologies emerging from the United States are of the highest quality.”
The report – “Standardizing the Future: How Can the United States Navigate the Geopolitics of International Standards Setting?” – examines the geopolitical dynamics surrounding technology standards setting and finds “US policy makers ought to maintain awareness of China’s activities” in addition to “tak[ing] SDOs’ structural integrity and history into account as they design a strategy for future US engagement with standards organizations.”
Among the key takeaways:
China recently released a new strategy for increased engagement with international technology standards-setting bodies to cement its status as a global economic and technological superpower.
However, Chinese representation within standards bodies is far from reaching a disproportionate level, especially in comparison to the country’s economic weight. The United States has a dominant presence in standards bodies, holding at least 50 percent of votes in eleven of the thirty-nine organizations evaluated by this paper. Moreover, such bodies are structurally sound and have been able to withstand pressure from individual governments in the past.
Reasonable US policy to promote the setting of technically sound, cost-effective, and equitable standards should not focus on pushing out the Chinese or otherwise managing the structure and processes of standards bodies; rather, Washington would do better to support the US technology sector and ensure that new technologies emerging from the United States are of the highest quality, since well-engineered products are the most likely to be selected for global use.
“As I have previously cautioned, China aspires to be the world’s dominant tech leader. Indeed, as President Biden has rightfully noted, China believes it will ‘own America’ by 2035,” said Frances F. Townsend, former White House counterterrorism and national security advisor, and current chair of the American Edge Project’s National Security Advisory Board. “The Atlantic Council’s critical new report shows China is seeking to increase its influence over technology standards setting, and while the United States retains a dominant presence, we must ‘maintain awareness’ of China’s activities. Further, the United States must focus efforts on improving its domestic innovation capabilities to better compete with China and an increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that has sent clear signals over its intent to turn China into the global epicenter of technology innovation.”
The Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center’s new report, published in partnership with the American Edge Project, was authored by Giulia Neaher, David Bray, Julian Mueller-Kaler, and Benjamin Schatz. The report reflects extensive interviews with leading experts in standards setting, US-Sino relations, and technology policy, along with a dataset studying the demographics of standards organizations’ members.
Background: The American Edge Project is a coalition of domestic organizations representing a cross-section of U.S. innovators who are dedicated to telling the story about technology’s positive influence on America’s economy and the vital role innovation plays in our society. Former New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, former U.S. Representative Chris Carney, and former Federal Election Commission Chairman Bradley A. Smith are directors of the American Edge Project. Former White House Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend leads the Project’s National Security Advisory Board. Former U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) serve as Co-Chairs of the Project’s Economic Advisory Board. Former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and former U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) serve as Co-Chairs of the Project’s Open & Accessible Internet Advisory Board. Visit AmericanEdgeProject.org for more information.