China, Congress, fast track, FinFET, Huawei, national security, Obama, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, semiconductors, SMIC, technology transfer, TPA, TPP, Trade, Trade Promotion Authority, Trans-Pacific Partnership
Congress has just reminded us that, if timing is indeed the secret of great comedy, it’s even more crucial for political tragicomedy. What better way to describe the Senate’s final vote for fast tracking a prospective Pacific Rim trade agreement touted as a bulwark against rising Chinese regional influence two days after a U.S. corporate tech giant dramatically increased its investments in China’s (inevitably) defense-related technology sector?
The Senate was passing the fast track bill even as I wrote this, which means that the president could sign it before close-of-business. As I’ve repeatedly noted, it’s become an article of faith in the main stream of the nation’s foreign policy establishment that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal whose Congressional endorsement fast track will ease (though not guarantee) will help prevent China from increasingly dominating East Asia’s commerce and security relationships. And as I’ve also repeatedly noted, these same security whizzes, from President Obama on down, have consistently turned a blind eye to U.S. corporate transfers of advanced technology that can only strengthen China militarily at America’s expense.
The latest instance came earlier this week. On Tuesday, China’s state-linked flagship semiconductor manufacturer, SMIC, announced that American computer chip firm Qualcomm will help it develop new generations of the integrated circuits that control communications devices in particular. But the knowhow supplied by Qualcomm and by a world-class microelectronic research center in Belgium can be applied across the full range of semiconductors – including the types used in all modern military systems. Indeed, a major focus of the new joint venture will be enabling China to master so-called FinFET technology, which is a key to manufacturing chips that can leapfrog current limits on semiconductor power consumption and speed.
I’d say that “To put the icing on the cake, the third partner in the JV is Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker that has been all but explicitly banned from selling in the United States because of national security concerns.” But the ironies scarcely end there. Qualcomm has lobbied actively for the TPP. It also paid Democratic presidential front-runner – and former Secretary of State for President Obama – Hillary Clinton $335,000 to give a speech last October.
It’s inconceivable that this new Qualcomm deal isn’t known to the Obama administration. It’s just as inconceivable that it’s not known to the Pacific Rim countries whose security from China the TPP will supposedly bolster. What’s certain is that Qualcomm’s efforts to strengthen China’s high tech industries, and similar recent corporate moves, are known to very few American voters – and that Members of Congress who supported fast track should be very grateful that they haven’t been front page news.