By Aurélia End
President Joe Biden on Wednesday moved to restrict US investment in Chinese technology during a multi-state tour of the Southwest to tout his push to revive American manufacturing after decades of decline.
The executive order directs the Treasury Department to restrict certain US investments in China in sensitive high-tech sectors including semiconductors, quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI).
The restrictions, which are expected to take effect next year, come as Biden’s administration looks to bolster its position vis-a-vis China on a multitude of fronts: military, economic and technological.
They also come as the 80-year-old Democrat revs up his pitch for reelection in 2024, turning his attention to jobs and the economy, key bread-and-butter issues in the campaign for the White House.
As the executive order was made public, Biden was speaking in New Mexico about his government’s success in boosting manufacturing jobs in the renewable energy sector — an appeal to voters to embrace his brand of “Bidenomics.”
“Our plan is working,” he said in the city of Belen to mark the groundbreaking of a factory manufacturing wind turbine towers for the Arcosa group — and the creation of 250 new jobs.
“Where’s it written that America can’t lead the world again in manufacturing? Because we’re going to do just that,” he added.
Biden, who is running for a second term, praised the project, which converts a facility that had been making disposable tableware and other plastic products until the operation went bankrupt.
“When I think climate, I think jobs,” Biden told the audience in Belen, one day after a stopover at the Grand Canyon that focused on the environment.
“Instead of exporting American jobs, we’re creating American jobs and we’re exporting American products,” he added.
For many, the Democrat’s economic policies — the “Bidenomics” that the president’s communications team is trying to bring into the mainstream in a positive light — remain murky.
Biden is struggling to bring Americans up to speed on two major bills he shepherded through Congress and signed into law one year ago: the CHIPS and Science Act, which pumps huge funding into semiconductor manufacturing, research and development; and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a landmark law for megaprojects boosting green investment.
The laws follow the same formula: pour in subsidies and offer tax incentives to encourage domestic production and development of both electric cars and future semiconductors.
The administration’s policy of unashamed industrial sovereignty is making some of Washington’s traditional allies bristle.
But Biden, focused on domestic priorities, has waived them off.
He needs to win back portions of the working-class vote captured by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who appealed to large segments of blue-collar workers who were laid off or otherwise felt left behind by globalization.
Hundreds of billions
The White House claims that since Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act — so named because a post-pandemic America was buckling in the face of soaring prices — companies have made some US$110 billion in clean energy investments in the United States.
And CHIPS has led to companies pouring more than US$166 billion into manufacturing of semiconductors and other electronics, the Biden administration added.
Chinese internet giants Alibaba, Baidu, Bytedance and Tencent have ordered US$5 billion worth of Nvidia chips vital to powering generative artificial intelligence systems as fears mount the US will begin restricting exports, according to a Financial Times report.
The report quoted an unnamed Baidu employee as saying “Without these Nvidia chips, we can’t pursue the training for any large language model.”
In total, more than half a trillion dollars of investment has flowed into manufacturing and clean energy since the start of the Biden administration in January 2021, Biden said Wednesday.
Such astronomical figures, however, do not automatically boost his election advantage.
The Democrat, handicapped by his age in the eyes of voters, knows his reelection destiny will be played out as much in the courts as in America’s factories.
While keen to talk up his economic policies, the US president has remained stubbornly silent on the legal perils of Trump, the clear frontrunner in the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination race.
Polls, which admittedly carry little sway 15 months before the election, so far show the two rivals neck and neck, despite mounting indictments against the Republican billionaire.
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