Is America Behind in Technology?
If we look at the numbers, it seems as if America is falling behind our competitors in technology. There are a few reasons for this, including our declining infrastructure, a lack of access to high-quality STEM education, and the growing threat of foreign interests to our national security. Then, there is the question of how to fix this.
China’s technological dominance
The United States’ policy toward China has encouraged the country to upgrade its technology and science systems. Xi Jinping, the current president of China, first visited the U.S. as part of a military delegation in 1980. He was secretary to a senior PLA general and joined meetings about deepening cooperation with the Pentagon. The Carter administration’s approach emphasized developing China’s science and technology ecosystem. The assumption was that such development would lead to the modernization of the economy and alignment of China’s political system.
As technology advances and global calamity becomes a bigger global challenge, countries and multinationals must align to meet global challenges. While it is important to protect U.S. national achievements, the growing risks of a looming global catastrophe threaten to wash away many of the U.S. achievements. Policymakers must take into account these larger problems and ensure that they do not exacerbate existing problems.
While China has long been the world’s factory for low-quality goods, the government has quietly opened another front in its campaign for high-tech dominance. Beijing’s goal is to catch up with the United States as the most technologically advanced economy. And it is aiming to make the transition to a technologically advanced economy in the coming decades as quickly as possible.
These moves have effectively closed the Overton window for the U.S.-China relationship on technology. But the effects of these policies will be felt for many years to come. In the short term, they will delay the technological upgrading of Chinese fabrication capacity. In the long term, they will put America in the position of being unable to compete with China.
The Chinese government’s bottom-up support for non-state companies is a good example of this. These companies have largely replaced multinational corporations in the domestic market and are making profits. But in other sectors, they lag behind their Western counterparts. For example, Chinese companies are failing to make profits in the solar panel industry because foreign rivals have a higher-tech product. The government has also imposed higher tariffs on imported components, making it impossible for foreign manufacturers to expand their supply chains quickly.
However, the United States can use defensive measures to prolong these timelines and lay the groundwork for greater technological independence in the future. For now, most U.S.-China tech ties will continue to last. However, full-scale decoupling is more complicated, and will take several decades to complete.
U.S. infrastructure decline
The United States has consistently lagged behind other advanced nations in terms of infrastructure quality and investment. This problem is enduring and growing. The United States has fallen behind other advanced nations in all areas of infrastructure investment, including new construction, maintenance, capital preservation, and renewal. In particular, US infrastructure is not meeting its needs in the areas of transportation and energy. This lack of investment is hurting economic growth and employment. It also causes our infrastructure to deteriorate sooner than it should.
The decline in infrastructure has impacted many areas of the U.S. economy, including air travel. Air travel declined by nearly 20% in the first eleven months of 2021, while the percentage of canceled flights was 5 percentage points lower than in 2020 and one percent lower than in 2019. Public rail transit rides decreased by 48% from November to December 2019. Although the condition of the nation’s electrical grids improved in the past four years, many areas are still suffering from outages due to faulty electrical grids.
With the federal government failing to adequately fund large infrastructure projects, local governments are struggling to carry out major upgrades. Local governments are the primary owners and operators of these infrastructure systems. They are also limited by tight budgets. Without federal support, these units are struggling to provide necessary public services. The result is a quality gap among states.
The United States will need to invest more money to address this infrastructure shortage. While many people believe in the benefits of investing in infrastructure, there is still room for debate about the best approach to fund this. The debate about infrastructure funding often breaks along partisan lines. While Democrats favor direct federal funding, Republicans are more in favor of encouraging private sector development.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest Infrastructure Report Card gives the U.S. infrastructure a C-, which is much better than the D+ we earned last year. Although infrastructure spending has increased in recent years, the amount of money allocated for capital projects has decreased. Instead, public institutions are focusing on operating and maintaining their existing systems and less on new infrastructure and significant upgrades.
Lack of access to high-quality STEM education
STEM education is crucial to future success, but many students in the United States are not receiving it. This lack of STEM training puts them at risk of being shut out of some of the most promising career paths. High school courses in math and science are under-resourced in many schools, which limits the opportunities available for students. Many rural and urban students are not receiving courses in science, technology, engineering, and math, making it difficult for them to compete in college. This lack of access has many negative consequences, including a negative impact on the country’s economy and national security.
Despite federal funding for STEM education, schools in low-income areas often lack the resources needed to provide an engaging STEM curriculum. This is especially problematic in rural areas, which generally have fewer resources than their urban counterparts. Further, rural educators are more likely to teach a wide range of subjects in their classrooms, which can dilute the content of STEM courses.
STEM fields are critical to the nation’s economic competitiveness and national security. Without STEM education, the United States will be unable to compete internationally. The country will need to produce one million additional STEM professionals in order to maintain its global competitiveness. In addition to retaining the STEM students that it already has, the U.S. workforce will not have the necessary skills to remain competitive in the future.
While the funding for STEM programs is a significant step towards achieving these goals, there are many other measures that must be taken to provide more opportunities for students in this field. In addition to improving student academic performance, quality STEM education programs also benefit employers, which translates to a more productive economy. However, increasing funding alone is not enough to improve access to STEM programs in the United States. More innovative solutions are necessary to ensure that these programs are accessible and successful.
STEM teachers who are subject-specific are also crucial to improving student achievement. Studies have shown that teachers with STEM degrees are more effective in engaging students in STEM learning. This is particularly important in low-income schools, where only 28% of teachers have science degrees.
Foreign interests threatening U.S. national security
Foreign interests pose a serious threat to U.S. national security in a number of ways. One basic threat comes from the hostile Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes, which have extensive political, economic, and military power, and a desire to change the balance of power worldwide. The threat also extends to climate change and international trade, and to the development of cyberspace.
In addition, the Iranian regime continues to pose a threat to U.S. and Western interests in the Middle East. The Iranian government has consistently resisted pressure to end its nuclear program, while projecting its power into neighboring states and minimizing threats to its regime’s stability. Meanwhile, the North Korean regime under Kim Jong-un is steadily expanding its nuclear arsenal, threatening U.S. and allied interests, and occasionally employing potentially destabilizing actions.
The United States’ national security establishment has been increasingly competitive for resources and power. As a result, it has encouraged competing perspectives on security threats. The bureaucratic proximity of different agencies to one another increases resource competition. In addition, competing agencies may debase rivals’ risks.
In addition to cyber attacks, terrorists may use insiders and hackers to collect sensitive U.S. economic information. These attacks may also target civilians or churches. In recent attacks, Boko Haram has targeted churches and rural communities in Nigeria and Afghanistan. These attacks highlight the danger of unsavory foreign actors that are willing to exploit their country’s vulnerabilities to undermine the United States.
The United States continues to place a priority on ensuring its allies’ national security. The People’s Republic of China has demonstrated its capability to develop weapons and capabilities that cut against U.S. interests. In addition, Russia has been pushing to change global norms and institutions to its own advantage. This is a growing threat to U.S. interests and allies.