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Event Recap—Critical Tech and the China Challenge: A Conversation with the Honorable Patrick J. Murphy  

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On Wednesday, June 28th, the American Security Project held a webinar on Critical Tech and the China Challenge with the Honorable Patrick J. Murphy, former U.S. Under Secretary of the Army and current Senior Managing Director at Ankura Consulting Group. Mr. Murphy and ASP COO Matthew Wallin discussed the necessity for the United States to proactively address and counter China’s development of critical technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), and ensure that tech companies, Congress, the Department of Defense, and allied countries protect American intellectual property for both economic growth and national security.

The conversation highlighted the escalating threat the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses to national security, and the importance of the United States developing a quick and adept response. China continues to disregard international norms and pursue surveillance of U.S. territories, all while gaining a competitive edge in key industries through exploiting U.S. innovations and free trade policies. To these problems, Murphy contended, “We better wake up.”

According to Murphy, there are multiple steps the United States must take to protect American innovation. The U.S. must mitigate the possibility of advanced technology getting in the hands of the CCP, which requires engagement by both the public and private sector. The U.S. also needs to decouple American strategic assets in China. To do this, Murphy called on the Department of Defense to use the “power of the purse” to motivate new public-private partnerships with firms that agree to work with the U.S. alone. Murphy went on to say that while tech companies must consider their share-holder obligations, stakeholders should consider national security and democratic ideals when acting. Recognizing that this is an issue superseding United States interests, the United States should further strengthen its diplomatic relations to motivate collective international action. As many countries have fallen victim to Chinese transactional relations with the Belt and Road Initiative, the United States can develop a unified response against China with mutually beneficial “win-win” relationships.

China’s malign use of advanced technology, including generative AI, can pose a direct threat to national security. As great power competition between the United States and China grows, “We can’t continue to have blinders on,” said Mr. Murphy. The United States must be proactive to ensure national security interests are upheld, and it is time for the United States to develop a strong response with tech companies. According to Murphy, “They have to pick a side, and we have to do more.”