UT Haslam Professor Analyzes How High Tech Factors into US-China Relations

Supply Chain Management Professor Sara Hsu and her fellow researchers will discuss their analysis on Friday, March 10, in Zoom webinar presented through The Carter Center.

March 8, 2023
Sara Hsu, clinical associate professor of supply chain management

The Carter Center recently published “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of High Technology in U.S.-China Relations,” co-authored by Sara Hsu, clinical associate professor of supply chain management in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. Hsu and her fellow researchers will discuss their analysis on Friday, March 10, from 9-10:30 a.m. EST, on The Carter Center’s China Focus website. Available through Zoom, the talk is free, and registration is open.

Hsu and her colleagues examined the role of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, big data and privacy, semiconductors and cyberattacks in relations between China and the U.S. The researchers found that the two superpowers’ increasing competition on complex technologies has not only heightened distrust between the nations but has also generally increased uncertainty about geopolitical stability.

When the team began their analysis, they noted several opportunities for dialogue between the U.S. and China. However, Hsu says circumstances have deteriorated since then. For viable potential dialogue openings between the countries, conditions must change.

“When we started this paper several years ago, relations were better,” Hsu says. “One of the first things that must happen is a stabilization of relations, but escalation of existing conflicts keeps happening. The spy balloon incident was one thing, and then there’s Biden’s ban on use of TikTok on government phones, among other things. The tone is very adversarial. There needs to be an overall shift in tone and approach.”

If communication eventually begins, the new report’s foundational concepts for initial dialogue between the U.S. and China on high tech may prove fruitful. These ideas include setting realistic expectations; establishing an agenda that addresses only the broadest and narrowest of issues to keep goals modest and achievable; minimizing misunderstandings and ensuring people with similar kinds of technological knowledge bases and authority are in the talks, which, for the U.S., may mean having to draw on private sector personnel for assistance; and maintaining a regular communications schedule to prevent backsliding in relations.

Hsu pointed to better relations between the U.S. and China in previous years as a model for feasible communication goals in the future.

“The Obama administration asked the Chinese to stop their hacking of large U.S. corporations, and they did for a while,” Hsu says. “So, I know that there is the ability for both governments to have a dialogue about cyberattacks that are state sponsored or have some sort of connection with the state. At the highest levels, dialogue has been held in the past, and if we could get that back, that could be a start.”

To learn more about the obstacles and opportunities discussed in the report, join Hsu and her colleagues for The Carter Center’s China Focus webinar. Friday’s discussion will be moderated by Yawei Liu, senior advisor on China at The Carter Center and first editor of the report. This event is a collaboration with the China Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Released in February 2023, “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of High Technology in U.S.-China Relations,” is the fourth report in The Carter Center’s “Finding Firmer Ground” report series. It was written by Hsu; Ja-Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore and nonresident scholar with Carnegie China; Rorry Daniels, managing director of Asia Society Policy Institute; Shirley Martey Hargis, nonresident fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub and Digital Forensic Research Lab; and John Lee, director of East West Futures Consulting.

About The Carter Center

The Carter Center is a nongovernmental organization that helps to improve lives by resolving conflicts, advancing democracy and human rights, preventing diseases and improving mental health care.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu