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Review: China Competition, Emerging Technologies, and Alliances, Jennifer Jackett (12/02/24)

The CCW Emerging Threats Group convened on February 12th, 2024, to discuss China Competition, Emerging Technologies, and Alliances as part of our AUKUS series. The session was led by Jennifer Jackett, former Senior Advisor to the Australian Government and Sir Roland Wilson Scholar at the National Security College at the Australian National University. Focussing on case studies of 5G security regulation and semiconductor export controls, the discussion explored factors driving alignment or variation in policy responses and the consequences of allies’ choices for the trajectory of US-China technology competition.


5G is a significant advancement in telecommunications, allowing rapid movement and processing of data. Chinese companies provide some high-quality technology. However, Chinese national security law means that Chinese companies may be compelled by the Chinese state to compromise the security of networks and even disrupt their operation. The US sought to build a global coalition to improve the security of 5G networks by restricting the use of untrustworthy vendors and promoting a more diverse supply chain. But national responses to 5G differed. Australia was the first country to exclude Chinese vendors in 2018. The UK opted to allow Huawei technology in non-core parts of its 5G infrastructure before updating its decision to exclude Huawei. In the EU, certain countries like Germany have so far allowed Huawei, pursuing a risk-based approach guided by the EU 5G toolbox. The variation in approaches, despite US expectations of alignment, can be attributed to differing threat perceptions and economic and industry considerations.


Semiconductors are essential to all modern commercial and military technologies. The supply chain is complex, with design led in the US and concentration of manufacturing in key nodes like Taiwan and South Korea. As Chinese military modernization and build-up continues apace, the US has sought to restrict Chinese access to semiconductor technology for national security and military applications. US export controls have focused on the tools and expertise China needs to produce chips at scale. So far, US allies like the Netherlands and Japan have imposed similar controls, despite fears of Chinese retaliation. Alignment between the US and its allies on such controls has required close coordination. And there remain differing domestic economic and industrial pressures, and foreign policy considerations, among the US and its allies that will shape how the controls in each country evolve.

Looking Ahead

Our next session is with Rob Rider, CBE, UK Defence Attaché to Germany (2015-20) on the Ukraine War two years on, delving into lessons around technology and autonomy. In addition, we are partnering with Hertford Politics and Economics Society for a Q&A session with Major General Tim Hodgetts. We will also be releasing our annual report in the upcoming weeks, so please keep your eyes peeled for this document.

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