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The U.S. seeks to cut off China from Dutch semiconductors

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is at the White House this week. He'll meet with President Biden where he'll discuss the war in Ukraine and also semiconductors. The U.S. and the Netherlands are both global leaders in semiconductor technologies. And the U.S. wants the Dutch to cut off competitors, specifically China. It's part of a wider strategy by the Biden administration to curb tech exports to China. For more, let's turn to Jon Bateman. He's a senior fellow in the Technology and International Affairs Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jon, you've described this as the boldest leap toward technological decoupling by the U.S. so far. But why do you think they need to be careful how it's done?

JON BATEMAN: Well, there's a lot of legitimate concerns with China's rise and its use of advanced technology. Semiconductors, for example, could be used for military purposes. They could be used for surveillance and human rights violations. But at the same time, if the U.S. moves too fast and too far to cut off the technological relationship with China - and I see that as an example of what's been done with these sweeping new export controls on semiconductors - there's a lot of damage that we could do to American interests as well.

We could create competitive disadvantages for U.S. companies and make it harder for them to get the funds and the talent that they need to stay ahead. We could alienate our own allies and partners, countries like the Netherlands, by imposing unilateral restrictions that affect foreign friendly companies equally to American companies. And then Americans really need to understand the damage that's being done to U.S.-China relations, which is in such a terrible state right now.

MARTÍNEZ: And we're putting our allies in a tough spot - right? - kind of in a - between a rock and a hard place.

BATEMAN: China and the world. That - we have a kind of quasi-containment strategy where we're really trying to impair China's technological development at a broad and fundamental level. The harder it will be to cooperate with China on issues like climate, public health, and in the worst case, to avoid a war.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, what are the potential long-term consequences of this pressure strategy against China on the global economy?

BATEMAN: I'm sorry. I got cut off there. Could you repeat the question?

MARTÍNEZ: Sure. What are the potential long-term consequences of this pressure strategy against China on the global economy?

BATEMAN: When we think about the gradual disconnection of the two major economies in the world - and we're not at a total divorce yet. But we're moving toward lesser and lesser technological and economic interdependence. We're really talking about a partial rollback of some of the most important links that we've seen in decades of globalization. So it's getting harder for Chinese students and researchers and STEM talent to come to the United States. We have more tariffs, more export controls, a growing set of financial controls and bans on Chinese technology.

And we're seeing similar moves in China itself and by other governments. So as we move farther in this direction, we're really planning to duplicate a lot of supply chains that have been globally integrated in the past, which is a very costly proposition. At the same time, there could be a more fractured scientific ecosystem, so it could be harder for the best experts to collaborate across international lines - and then also, on a more qualitative level, fewer and fewer people-to-people ties, which has been an important ballast in the relationship.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Jon Bateman, senior fellow in the Technology and International Affairs Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Jon, thanks.

BATEMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.