On April 8, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a bipartisan bill titled the "Strategic Competition Act of 2021." The legislation outlines a comprehensive plan for the U.S. to compete with China, particularly in the realms of science, technology and infrastructure.
The bill was jointly proposed by Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), and the committee will vote on the legislation on April 14.
The legislation calls for a strategy to address "China's presence and activities at international standards-setting bodies" in relation to 5G and other mobile telecommunications systems. In fact, an entire section of the bill — Section 209 — is titled "Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act of 2021," and it calls for greater U.S. participation in international technical standards-setting bodies.
The bill also suggests there should be "regulatory exchanges" among partners and allies to prioritize standards-setting in "key economic sectors and emerging technologies." Additionally, the legislation asks for further research into the "scope and scale" of China's engagement with standards-setting bodies, especially as compared to the U.S. and its allies.
China has made its standards-setting ambitions known with its "China Standards 2035" plan, and Chinese private sector companies have joined in the effort. For example, in one of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba's job postings for a Safety Standardization Expert, the job description explicitly states the company's aspirations, noting that the "eventual goal is to create the de facto standards."
In the early 2000s, China famously failed to establish its wireless network security standard, WAPI, as the global standard. Learning from their previous mistakes, China has now invested greater resources in collaborating with international standards-setting bodies to get their domestic standards adopted globally. This new legislation suggests that the U.S. Federal government is finally paying attention and taking action.