How can the United States navigate the geopolitics of international technology standards?

The GeoTech Center launches a new report on the relationship between technology standards setting and geopolitics.


On Thursday, October 14 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. ET, please join the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center for the official launch of a report on the relationship between technology standards setting and geopolitics, titled Standardizing the future: How can the United States navigate the geopolitics of international technology standards?


This report, published in partnership with the American Edge Project, endeavors to study the geopolitical dynamics surrounding technology standards-setting in order to better inform related US policy, considering in particular the relationship between standards and Sino-US relations. The work examines China’s engagement with standards-setting and asks: How is Chinese strategy for standards-setting changing over time? Is there reason to worry that the People’s Republic of China may disproportionately impact the selection and enforcement of technological standards in the future? And what would that mean for US standards policy?


In an effort to study these questions, the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center conducted extensive interviews with leading experts in standards-setting, Sino-US relations, and technology policy, and collected a dataset studying the demographics of standards organizations’ members.




Key takeaways:

  • China has recently released a new strategy for increased engagement with international technology standards-setting bodies in an effort to cement its status as a global economic and technological superpower.

  • However, Chinese representation within standards bodies is far from reaching a disproportionate level, especially in comparison to the country’s economic weight. The United States has a dominant presence in standards bodies, holding at least 50 percent of votes in eleven of the thirty-nine organizations evaluated by this paper. Moreover, such bodies are structurally sound and were able to withstand pressure from individual governments in the past.

  • Reasonable US policy to promote the setting of technically sound, cost-effective, and equitable standards should not focus on pushing out the Chinese or otherwise managing the structure and processes of standards bodies; rather, Washington would do better to support the American technological sector and ensure that new technologies emerging from the United States are of the highest quality, since well-engineered products are the most likely to be selected for global use.

Featuring

Frances F. Townsend Former White House Counterterrorism and National Security Advisor National Security Advisory Board, American Edge Project

Paul Saffo Adjunct Professor Stanford University School of Engineering

Mary Saunders Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

Julian Mueller-Kaler Resident Fellow, GeoTech Center Atlantic Council

Hosted by

Stephanie Wander Acting Director, GeoTech Center Atlantic Council

Giulia Neaher Program Assistant, GeoTech Center Atlantic Council