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China wants more say in setting global technology standards

China wants a bigger seat at the global technology standards-setting table, and experts advise the U.S. to take a cautious yet optimistic approach to its growing interest.

As countries around the world grapple with setting international technology standards for new technologies, experts are torn on China's increased involvement.

The Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., released a report this week studying the geopolitical dynamics around technology standards development. In particular, it focused on China's growing involvement in standards development for emerging technologies.

According to the report, the concern with China's involvement revolves around potential harms to the integrity of the standards-setting process, which threatens the U.S.'s global technology leadership position. The group also warns that excluding China could prompt it to develop rival standards.

The Chinese government is "seeking to increase its sway over international standards developing organizations," the report said, but added that there currently isn't cause for the U.S. to worry that the country will be successful in exerting unfair influence.

The U.S. should embrace China's growing interest in international technology standards-setting, but U.S. policymakers should remain aware of China's goal to gain technological dominance, said Frances Townsend, former assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to U.S. President George W. Bush, during a webinar discussing the Atlantic Council's findings.

"While China doesn't yet possess an outsized majority in the international standards-setting bodies, we shouldn't kid ourselves," she said. "The communist Chinese party has made very clear they have real goals, real ambitions in this area."

Risks and benefits

Mary Saunders, vice president of government relations and public policy at the American National Standards Institute, said during the webinar that the organization sees China's participation as an opportunity rather than a threat.

"Consensus standards development is not a win-lose process, it's more akin to community building and the outcome of the process will generally reflect the technical contributions of a full range of stakeholders, not the input of a single contributor," she said.

Julian Mueller-Kaler, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council Geotech Center and co-author of the report, said decision makers in the U.S. and Europe will need to make a conscious choice on how they want to integrate China into international conversations on topics such as standards setting despite concerns.

Otherwise, Mueller-Kaler said there is a risk the Chinese government could build rival technology standards-setting institutions that would disrupt uniformity across standards.

The challenge is "to find an agreement on the difference of perspectives between the United States and China," Mueller-Kaler said.

Also this week

  • Microsoft is shuttering LinkedIn in China, a localized version the company began offering in 2014. In a blog post, Mohak Shroff, senior vice president of engineering at LinkedIn, said the company originally recognized that operating LinkedIn in China meant the platform would have to adhere to the Chinese government's requirements for operation. Shroff said the recent decision to end the LinkedIn in China service later this year was due to facing a "more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China." After shuttering the service, Shroff said LinkedIn will launch InJobs, a standalone job application site for China that will not include a social feed where users can share articles.
  • Andy Parker, father of broadcast journalist Alison Parker who was killed in 2015 during a gun attack while filming live television, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the federal regulator to investigate Facebook. Parker said the social media giant, which is already under public scrutiny, fails to adhere to its own terms of service by allowing videos of Parker's murder to be shared across its platforms. Parker filed FTC complaints against Google and YouTube in 2020 for similar activities. "Alison's murder, shared on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is just one of the egregious practices that are undermining the fabric of our society," he said.

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.

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