Jun 10, 2021

China Criticises US Senate’s $250bn Tech and AI Bill

AI
Technology
China
US
3 min
With its latest legislation, the U.S. has triggered a 21st-century race for high-tech dominance, leading to further conflict with China

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate approved the Innovation and Competition Act, a bipartisan initiative that aims to supercharge American tech and manufacturing. Championed by both parties—a move unusual in itself—the bill will provide US$190bn for U.S. technology research, US$54bn for semiconductors and telecommunications, and US$29bn over five years for a new technology division at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Among other tech specialisations, lawmakers intend to accelerate research in AI, machine learning, and quantum science.

According to California Representative Ro Khanna, the Senate’s bill is the biggest investment in technology since the nation’s Apollo spaceflight programme. Biden looks forward to signing it into law, and even Republicans worried about final costs are willing to get on board. 

But this is also the latest development in the United States’ hardline stance against China. In addition to slapping broad sanctions on Chinese firms involved in cyberattacks and intellectual property theft, the bill will block drone purchases from Chinese-government-backed companies, throw support behind Taiwanese diplomats, and ban Americans from investing in Huawei Technologies and other companies allegedly involved in Chinese defence and surveillance. 

Cold-War Thinking? 

Although the bill must pass through the U.S. House of Representatives to be signed into law, China has already sent a firm response. “We firmly object to the United States seeing China as an imaginary enemy”, said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry representative. In a further comment, she called the anti-Chinese measures “full of zero-sum thinking [that] distorts the facts”. 

In a Wednesday statement, the foreign affairs committee of China’s National People’s Congress concurred, stating that the bill “seeks to exaggerate and spread the so-called China threat to maintain global American hegemony, using human rights and religion as excuses to interfere in China’s domestic politics, and deprive China of its legitimate human rights”. 

Indeed, the China-U.S. relationship has deteriorated over the past eight or nine years. This is partly due to trade wars and partly due to political rhetoric. Ever since the U.S. elected President Trump in 2017, Americans have united behind a common distrust of China. Now, advanced surveillance technologies and artificial intelligence are at the top of the Senate’s priority list. 

The Starting Gun Goes Off

Some of China’s criticisms are true: namely, the bit about global American hegemony.  Said Biden: “We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off...We cannot risk falling behind”. The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer added similar sentiments. “We don’t mean to let [our days as the dominant superpower] end on our watch”, he said. “America [will not] become a middling nation”. 

Yet Americans who back the bill point out that China has enacted similar policies over the years, injecting funds into high-tech developments in order to remain competitive with the U.S., Japan, and India. One such example is the country’s “Made in China 2025”, a national strategic plan to help high-tech Chinese manufacturers dominate the market. 

To conclude: the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act may seem unexpectedly aggressive. But in reality, the Senate’s bill—and China’s reaction—is just one more step in a decades-long competition to come out on top.

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Jun 18, 2021

Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR

Microsoft
NASCAR
3 min
Racing fans can expect the ultimate virtual experience as a result of the partnership with Microsoft and NASCAR

Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).

These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack. 

“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”

“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”

“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR

  • Empower employees productivity and collaboration
  • Improve fan engagement and experience
  • Improve environment security and IT productivity
  • Improve racing operations

 

Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.

“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”

“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives. 

“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.

Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”

 

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