The United States and China have cooperated with each other on clean technology for years. The two powers jointly conduct low-carbon research and development, trade climate-friendly products and seal commercial deals to establish joint-venture companies. Amid the political clouds hovering over the bilateral relationship, the sector should offer rays of sunlight. And yet both countries have created unsound trade, investment and procurement policies that will ultimately restrict the potential to achieve greater gains for all.
The Chinese government suspects that the United States will not share state-of-the-art clean technologies so as to maintain its primacy and absolute advantage over China. Meanwhile, the US fears China is “beating” it in the clean revolution, and will profit handsomely.
Despite a steep trade imbalance with China, the United States imposes significant restrictions on exports of high technology. Since the presidency of George W Bush, a focus on national security combined with protectionism has led the government to tighten its export control policy toward China for fear that high-tech products might reach military end users. Recent statistics show that China’s high-tech imports have grown rapidly in the past decade, but those imported from the United States declined to 7.5% of imported products in 2009, down from 18.3% in 2001.
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Zhang Yuhan is a visiting research fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.