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Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says China could supplant Silicon Valley as the world's tech powerhouse unless the US government steps in


Eric Schmidt

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who helped build the company into a global tech powerhouse, says the United States is in danger of losing the tech race to China.

"Americans should be wary of living in a world shaped by China's view of the relationship between technology and authoritarian governance,"he wrote in a New York Times op-ed published Friday morning. "Free societies must prove the resilience of liberal democracy in the face of technological changes that threaten it."

Schmidt says that the race between the US and China can't be won by the private market alone and that the US government "needs to get back in the game in a serious way."

FILE PHOTO - Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019.  REUTERS/Aly Song

To that end, Schmidt called on the federal government to set "national priorities across emerging technologies, with a special focus on research areas that could enhance our defense and security."

In particular, he called for the US government — particularly the Department of Defense — to focus on a handful of subjects he sees as critical: Artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing, and hypersonics.

Schmidt is no stranger to this argument — he's been making it in some form for the past several years.

"It's pretty simple. By 2020 [China] will have caught up. By 2025 they will be better than us. And by 2030 they will dominate the industries of AI,"Schmidt said in 2017, referring to a report from the Chinese government on its AI ambitions."Trust me, these Chinese people are good. They are going to use this technology for both commercial as well as military objectives, with all sorts of implications."

He also called on Congress to approve President Trump's defense budget proposal "for the highest level of defense R&D funding in over 70 years."The White House's 2020 budget proposal includes $705.4 billion for the DOD — a nearly $1 billion increase over 2019's budget. "The government should begin by setting out national priorities across emerging technologies, with a special focus on research areas that could enhance our defense and security," Schmidt said. 

Without those priorities, Schmidt argued, China's plans for tech dominance are likely to succeed.

"Ultimately, the Chinese are competing to become the world's leading innovators, and the United States is not playing to win," he said. "For the American model to win, the American government must lead."

SEE ALSO: Google's ex-CEO Eric Schmidt says the internet will split in two by 2028

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