First 100 days: Biden keeps Trump-era sanctions in tech battle with China, looks to friends for help


U.S. President Joe Biden speaks alongside Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as they hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, April 16, 2021.Tom Brenner | Reuters

GUANGZHOU, China — In his first 100 days as president, Joe Biden has made one thing clear — he wants to make sure the U.S. outcompetes China on a number of fronts, with technology being front and center.

His policies continue the Trump-era hardline on export controls to Chinese technology companies but adds some new elements — collaboration with allies in areas seen as critical, such as semiconductors and a focus on beefing up domestic capabilities.

“The priority is on domestic innovation and forging technology alliances to coordinate confrontation against China in the tech domain,” Paul Triolo, head of the geo-technology practice at Eurasia Group, said.

What has Biden done so far?

The Biden administration has kept some Trump-era export bans on Chinese companies. Under Trump, telecommunication equipment maker Huawei and China’s largest chipmaker SMIC were put on the so-called “entity list,” which restricts American firms from exporting technology to companies on this blacklist.

Last year, the Trump administration introduced a rule that effectively cut Huawei off from critical semiconductor supplies, a move which has hurt the technology giant’s smartphone business. The U.S. maintains Huawei is a national security threat, a claim the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied.

For Trump, ensuring U.S. technology did not make it into the hands of Chinese companies was key, especially in critical areas like chips.

While Biden has kept these rules in place, he has also announced policies aimed at boosting American innovation.

“Where the Trump administration tended to focus on defensive measures (e.g., restrictions on Chinese military companies), early messaging about Biden’s approach suggests that it pairs those with more offensive, or proactive ones — investments, for example, in alternatives to China,” said Emily de La Bruyere, co-founder of consultancy Horizon Advisory.

In his American Jobs Plan, Biden calls on Congress to make a $180 billion investment in advancing “U.S. leadership in critical technologies and upgrade America’s research infrastructure.” There is also a call to invest $50 billion in