April 16, 2024

News and Political Commentary

U.S. lawmakers are trying to bar Chinese biotech companies over fears about America’s failure to compete with China in the industry

2 min read

U.S. lawmakers are raising alarms about what they see as America’s failure to compete with China in biotechnology, warning of the risks to U.S. national security and commercial interests. But as the two countries’ rivalry expands into the biotech industry, some say that shutting out Chinese companies would only hurt the U.S.

Biotechnology promises to revolutionize everyday life, with scientists and researchers using it to make rapid advances in medical treatment, genetic engineering in agriculture and novel biomaterials. Because of its potential, it has caught the attention of both the Chinese and U.S. governments.

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to bar “foreign adversary biotech companies of concern” from doing business with federally funded medical providers. The bills name four Chinese-owned companies.

The Chinese Embassy said those behind the bills have an “ideological bias” and seek to suppress Chinese companies “under false pretexts.” It demanded that Chinese companies be given “open, just, and non-discriminatory treatment.”

The debate over biotechnology is taking place as the Biden administration tries to stabilize the volatile U.S.-China relationship, which has been battered by a range of issues, including a trade war, the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity and militarization in the South China Sea.

Critics of the legislation warn that restrictions on Chinese companies would impede advances that could bring a greater good.

“In biotech, one cannot maintain competitiveness by walling off others,” said Abigail Coplin, an assistant professor at Vassar College who specializes in China’s biotech industry. She said she was worried that U.S. policymakers would get too obsessed with the technology’s military applications at the cost of hindering efforts to cure disease and feed the world’s population.

In a letter to senators sponsoring the bill, Rachel King, chief executive officer of the trade…

Didi Tang, The Associated Press

2024-02-19 04:29:53

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