US Critical and Emerging Technology Strategy
Dr Saroj Bishoyi, Research Fellow, VIF

As a part of the wider modernisation agenda, the US Department of State announced on 3rd January 2023 the establishment of a new Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology. The purpose of establishing this office is to bring additional technological expertise to the State Department for diplomatic engagement with foreign countries on the frontier technologies “because the constellation of Critical and Emerging Technologies (CETs)[1] reshaping the world” has now become “an integral part of the conduct of US foreign policy and diplomacy.” The State Department in its press release noted that as “the competition to develop and deploy foundational technologies” is intensifying, the Office “will bring additional technology policy expertise, diplomatic leadership, and strategic direction to the Department’s approach to critical and emerging technologies”.[2] The move is in response to the increasing efforts worldwide to develop and lead in innovation and production of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Biotechnology, Quantum Information Science and Semiconductors.

As the State Department works to strengthen technology diplomacy across the organization, the Office of the Special Envoy for CET will provide a center of expertise and energy to develop and coordinate CET foreign policy, and engage with foreign partners on CETs that are transforming societies, economies, and security. In this regard, it “will work in close coordination with the various Bureaus and Offices across the Department that are engaging on these and other technology topics”.[3] The State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that “This administration has made historic investments in the industries of the future, as well as the infrastructure and supply chains that support them – from the CHIPS Act to the Biotechnology & Bio-manufacturing Executive Order to the Inflation Reduction Act”.[4] He added that the Office will help the State Department “fulfill its mission of working with allies and partners to ensure that technology is developed and used in ways that protect our common interests and uphold our shared values”.[5]

The establishment of the Office of the Special Envoy for CET is, however, a continuing effort by the US Government to realise and use resources to the best for implementing America’s CET strategy which was developed under the Trump administration and upgraded under the Biden administration. The overall objective of this strategy is to revive the US domestic innovation and manufacturing of emerging technologies which are critical to its economic growth, security, tech leadership as well as strategic priorities.

The Trump Administration Unveiled America’s First CET Strategy

Implementing his “Made in America” and “America First” agenda, President Donald Trump had first released the National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies in October 2020 to bolster America’s innovation and production of CETs.[6] The strategy comprised of two pillars of success that aims to preserve America’s competitive edge: I) Promote the National Security Innovation Base (NSIB); and, II) Protect Technology Advantage. It specifies CETs that the Trump administration identified as important to the United States economic growth, technological competitiveness and national security. It identified twenty technology areas as priorities such as AI, Advance Computing, Autonomous Systems, Biotechnologies, Communication and Networking Technologies, Quantum Information Science, Semiconductors and Microelectronics. The strategy reaffirmed America’s commitment to technology leadership, collaborating with technology peers and managing technology risk.

It should be noted that in the midst of leading powers competition to develop and deploy emerging technologies, the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy (NSS) had called for the United States to lead in Science and Technology (S&T) by prioritising emerging technologies critical to its economic growth and national security. The NSS had also called for the US to defend the American NSIB, which it defined as the “network of knowledge, capabilities, and people – including academia”, against competitors. [7] Following which the National Strategy for CETs highlighted that “American leadership in S&T faces growing challenges from strategic competitors”, especially from China and Russia “who recognize the benefits of S&T and are organizing massive human and capital resources on a national scale to take the lead in areas with long-term consequences.” [8]

On China’s strategy to develop and lead in the CETs, it stated that Beijing “is not only dedicating large amounts of resources in its pursuit to become the global leader in S&T. It is also targeting sources of United States and allied strength by employing means that include stealing technology, coercing companies to disclose intellectual property, undercutting free and fair markets, failing to provide reciprocal access in research and development (R&D) projects, and promoting authoritarian practices that run counter to democratic values.”[9] On China’s embracing of emerging technologies such as AI technology and Big Data for military modernization purposes, it argued that China, in its quest to develop a world-class military capability by 2050, is “implementing a strategy to divert emerging technologies to military programmes, referred to as Military-Civil Fusion (MCF).” Consequently, the Trump administration launched a trade war with China by imposing a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of imported goods and a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of tech products. [10] It also banned Huawei Technologies, arguing that the use of its kit creates the potential for espionage by China and poses a national security risk, which was denied by both Huawei and Beijing.[11] On Russia’s plan to develop and deploy the CETs, the strategy stated that with less resources at its disposal compared to China, “Russia is focusing its government-led S&T efforts on military and dual-use technologies, such as artificial intelligence, that it believes will bring both military and economic advantages.”[12] It underlined that “Strategic Competitors”, such as China and Russia, “have adopted deliberate whole-of-government CET efforts and are making large and strategic investments to take the lead.” [13] As a result, it noted, America’s leadership in certain CET sectors is declining.

Therefore, Trump’s National Strategy for CETs outlined “the ways and means by which the United States, with its allies and partners, will continue to be the world leader in CET”. For achieving these challenging tasks, it stressed, the US will lead in the highest-priority CET areas, be a contributing peer with key allies and partners in high-priority technology areas, and manage risk in the remaining areas. It emphasized that “The United States will work with its allies and partners to advance CET based on a foundation of mutual benefit, teamwork, security, and proportional investment.” The strategy says that the US “can share its talents and capabilities with allies and partners, and mutually benefit from access to the full breadth of CET available within the trusted community.”[14] There was no substantial accomplishment on this front during the Trump administration. In fact, Trump’s “America First” policy angered some of the close allies and left “America isolated” on some of the important issues such as trade and climate change.

Progress under the Biden Administration

The Biden administration released the updated version of the CETs list in February 2022 by adding several new technology areas including: Advanced Gas Turbine Engine Technologies, Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies, Directed Energy, Financial Technology, Hypersonics, Networked Sensors and Sensing, and Renewable Energy Generation and Storage.[15] The inclusion of these technologies in the CETs list elevates their importance and provides insight into the technology capabilities that the US needs in the future. This updated list modifies and builds on the Trump administration’s National Strategy for CETs, which contained an initial list of priority technology areas. The list shows future US efforts to promote “technological leadership; cooperate with allies and partners to advance and maintain shared technological advantages; develop, design, govern, and use CETs that yield tangible benefits for society and are aligned with democratic values; and develop US Government measures that respond to threats against US security.”[16] Each identified CET area includes a set of key subfields that describe its scope in more detail. For instance, the Artificial Intelligence includes a set of subfields such as: Machine learning; Deep learning; Reinforcement learning; Sensory perception and recognition; Next-generation AI; Planning, reasoning, and decision making; and, Safe and/or secure AI.

The Biden Administration’s 2021 Interim National Security Strategic Guidance (INSSG-21) had highlighted three national security objectives and those are the safeguarding the security of US citizens, expanding economic prosperity and opportunity, and defending the democratic values.[17] The CETs in the updated list is expected to help achieve those objectives. The updated list closely tracks with the several of the critical technology areas described in the Pentagon’s National Defence Science and Technology strategy outlined in February 2022.[18] Amidst a global race for technological advantages, Pentagon’s technology strategy focussed on research, science, technology, engineering and innovation to maintain America’s military’s technological advantage. Both the Pentagon’s Technology Strategy and the updated CETs list signal growing bipartisan consensus in the US Congress to identify and develop critical technology capabilities domestically and foster technology partnerships with allies and partners. They also suggest higher risk related to investments and trade in such technologies with countries which are not aligned with US National Security interests and strategies.[19] The updated CETs list informs future US efforts to prioritize across CETs and their component subfields. It may be used for the development of US national and multilateral export controls. It also guides domestic investment policies and research in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Importantly, recognizing the leading powers race to develop and deploy the CETs that could shape the economic, technological and military balance against American interests, the Biden administration’s INSSG-21 also prioritized development and deployment of the CETs. The Guidance detailed the technological and military challenges that the US is confronting and emphasized “America must reinvest in retaining our scientific and technological edge and once again lead, working alongside our partners to establish the new rules and practices that will allow us to seize the opportunities that advances in technology present.”[20] Furthermore, the Indo-Pacific Strategy 2022 (IPS-22), National Security Strategy 2022 (NSS-22) and National Defence Strategy 2022 (NDS-22) of the Biden administration underscored the importance of CETs to economic growth, technological competitiveness and national security. These strategies also stress the significance of strengthening cooperation with key allies and partners in the areas of CETs.

In the IPS-22, the administration emphasized “advancing common approaches” to CETs, the internet, space, and cyberspace, and “innovating to operate” in this rapidly evolving threat environments.[21] In the NSS-22, it underlined the US investment “in a range of advanced technologies including applications in the cyber and space domains, missile defeat capabilities, trusted AI, and quantum systems, while deploying new capabilities to the battlefield in a timely manner” to counter the emerging challenges to the United States, its allies and partners.[22] Consistent with the Biden administration’s updated CETs list, the IPS-22 and the NSS-22, the NDS-22 reinforced the importance of developing and deploying CETs in defence sector for protecting and promoting its vital national security interests. It noted “a strong, principled, and adapting US military is a central pillar for US leadership”, especially at a time of dramatic rise of technological and geopolitical challenges.[23] It focuses on using America’s asymmetric advantages in defence sector, responsible investment in CETs areas that enhances defence capabilities and strategic stability, and working with allies and partners to build capabilities to counter the emerging security challenges of the 21st century.

Therefore, the Biden administration’s CET strategy not only builds on the Trump’s CET strategy, but it further expands the scope of the strategy and integrates with other national strategies. It is also continuing his predecessor’s “Made in America” vision with a new acronym “Build Back Better (BBB)” plan. In this regard, it has announced huge investment in domestic technology sector for scaling up domestic innovation and manufacturing of CETs. Notably, following President Biden’s first major foreign policy speech in February 2021 where he emphasized, “America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy”,[24] his administration renewed America’s diplomatic engagement with key allies and partners on the emerging technologies. As a result, it attracted global tech companies such as the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) and Samsung Electronics; both are world leaders in advanced semiconductor technology, which have already announced huge investments in the US. The TSMC has increased the investment from the 2020 announcement of investing $12 billion in the state of Arizona to produce 5-nanometer (5-nm) chips to about $40 billion investment in 2022 to produce 3-nm and 4-nm chips used for iPhone processers.[25] The Samsung in November 2021 announced to invest $17 billion in Taylor near Austin, Texas, for production of advanced logic semiconductors that power next-generation innovations and technologies.[26] These investments are a boost for Biden administration amid the growing US-China chip war and concern over supply chain disruptions.

Moreover, President Biden appointed Anne Neuberger as Deputy National Security Advisor on Cyber and Emerging Technology, a new position created to weave cyber and technology objectives into all diplomacy. As a part of this ongoing modernization effort, the Bidden administration has recently created a new Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy (CDP). It is also reorganizing the Office of the Under Secretary of Defence for Policy to sharpen its focus on CETs and elevate senior leader attention to critical regions. Hence, the establishment of the Office of Special Envoy for CETs would further strengthen the United States diplomatic engagement with foreign countries on frontier technologies. These measures modernize and strengthen the US Departments and Agencies dealing with the emerging technologies and will significantly contribute to revive America’s tech leadership.

India in the US CET Strategy

The Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation has been an important aspect of the budding India-US strategic partnership over the last two decades. In the midst of growing technology competition and rivalry between the US and China, Washington sees India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP), a Net Security Provider and critical partner in the US CET strategy. It sees India’s emergence on the world stage with economic and military power in addition to a stable democratic form of government would not only help balance the rise of assertive China, but also foster peace, stability and prosperity in Asia and beyond. Therefore, both the Trump administration and the Biden administration underlined strengthening of defence and strategic technology cooperation with India. While President Trump’s National Strategy for CET emphasized on working with allies and partners such as India to further advance emerging technology cooperation for “mutual benefit, teamwork, security, and proportional investment” and was willing to share American technology capability and talent. The Biden administration’s updated CETs list underscored the importance of developing robust CET cooperation with allies and partners such as India “to advance and maintain shared technological advantages.”

Importantly, in October 2020, the same month President Trump released its CET strategy, the newly created US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) in its report urged the State Department and Pentagon to formally negotiate with India on developing cooperation in CETs. The NSCAI asked the US Government to create a US-India Strategic Tech Alliance (USISTA) with an objective to make India a focal point of its foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific region focussed on emerging technology and India’s growing geopolitical role.[27] Notably, the Trump administration earlier elevated India’s status to Tier I of the Strategic Trade Authorization (STA) license exception from earlier STA-2 aimed at increasing cooperation on emerging technologies. The two countries also completed the remaining foundational defence agreements such as Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation in addition to Industrial Security Agreement (ISA), which protects classified information and technology transfers between private companies of the two countries.[28]

On the other hand, the Biden administration in its INSSG-21, IPS-22, NSS-22 as well as the NDS-22 expressed its desire to develop cooperation with India in the CETs. While the IPS-22 supports India’s ‘role as a net security provider’. The NSS-22 underlines India as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ and largest democratic country with which the US shares values and strategic interests, and the NDS-22 expresses American interest to strengthen India’s defence capability to counter China’s growing assertiveness. During President Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first in-person Summit in Washington DC in September 2021, the two leaders underscored the growing importance of “critical and emerging technologies in delivering economic growth and achieving strategic priorities”.[29] During their second in-person meeting on the sidelines of the fourth Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo in May 2022, they launched a new India-US Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET) to facilitate outcome-oriented cooperation. The iCET focuses on developing cooperation in the areas such as 5G/6G, AI, biotechnology, quantum computing, semiconductors and space technologies. The initiative is co-led by the US National Security Council (NSC) and the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) in India.[30]

Moreover, President Biden continued Trump’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy and renewed technology diplomacy with Quad countries. For instance, President Biden hosted virtually the first Quad Leadership Summit in March 2021 where the quad leaders of Australia, Japan, India and the US launched the Quad CET Working Group in addition to Working Groups onVaccine and Climate change. The CET group facilitates cooperation on innovation technologies and international standards. Since March 2021, the Quad has organized their work around four areas of CETs: technical standards, 5G diversification and deployment, horizon-scanning, and technology supply chains.[31] Therefore, the two countries have significantly expanded their cooperation on the CETs and laid the basis for future cooperation. They are increasingly emphasising on the use of CETs to address the 21st century challenges including energy, education, climate change, health, cyber, defence and security. Besides, India established a New, Emerging and Strategic Technologies (NEST) Division at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in 2020 for engaging with foreign countries on the CETs. In this regard, the Biden administration’s announcement of Office of the Special Envoy for CET will help in advancing technology cooperation between the two countries.


The announcement for the establishment of the Office of the Special Envoy for CET comes at a time when the competition and rivalry between the US and China on emerging technologies has been intensified. The two largest economies of the world are in race to develop and deploy CETs to shape the economic and military power to their advantage. Accordingly, the two countries are formulating and implementing their CET strategies. While China has ramped up its strategy to develop and dominate in the areas of CET through its ‘Made in China 2025’, an industrial and strategic policy first announced in May 2015, and 14th Five Year Plan, covering the years 2021-2025, which was passed by the Chinese parliament in March 2021. Through these grand strategies, China aims to become an innovation superpower and non-reliant on foreign technologies. It aims to increase the domestic content of core technologies and materials to 70 percent by 2025. In this endeavour, it sets high targets for domestic innovation and manufacturing of the CETs, provides financial and other necessary supports to domestic tech companies, attracts overseas Chinese and foreign tech talents at the same time forcing foreign companies to transfer advanced technologies and materials for participating in its market.[32]

On the other hand, implementing his CET strategy, President Biden signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act in August 2022 that aims to strengthen US competitiveness with China by building a strong domestic industrial base for CETs. The Act includes over $52 billion for tech companies producing semiconductors in addition to billions more in tax credits to encourage tech companies to invest and establish semiconductor foundries in the US. It also funds billions in scientific research and development to spur innovation in the CETs.[33] In October 2022, the Biden administration also brought a range of export control measures to restrict Chinese access to advanced chips, technologies and services necessary for China’s domestic development of chip industries and military modernization.[34]

In December 2022, the US expanded the list of Chinese tech companies on the United States’ ‘Entity List’ (EL), by adding 36 more Chinese companies to the US Commerce Department’s EL, citing concerns over national security, interests and human rights issues.[35] Wuhan-based Yangtze Memory Technologies Co (YMTC), one of China’s largest chip makers, was added to the EL along with a YMTC subsidiary located in Japan, Shanghai Micro Electronics Equipment (SMEE) and 33 other Chinese companies, essentially blocking the companies from accessing US critical technologies, commodities and software unless their American suppliers gain explicit sales approvals from the US Government.[36]

In addition, the Biden administration has mobilized its key allies and partners behind its export control measures vis-à-vis China. The primary objective of these measures is to secure American access to the advanced CETs, expand its presence in the global CET market, which has plunged from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2022,[37] and maintain America’s military technological advantage. At the same time, these measures restrict Chinese access to advanced technologies and materials, given the Chinese Government’s intent to use advanced chips and materials for its military modernization which Washington views as a ‘pacing challenge’ to America’s primacy and foreign policy interests in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond. Therefore, the race to develop and dominate in the CETs has further intensified the geopolitical competition and rivalry between the two great powers which will have serious consequences for regional and global technology supply chain security.


[1]The Critical and Emerging Technologies (CETs) are defined as “a subset of advanced technologies that are potentially significant to US national security” and economy. See Critical and Emerging Technologies List Update, A Report by the Fast Track Action Subcommittee on Critical and Emerging Technologies of the National Science and Technology Council, February 2022, p. 2 at Accessed on 7 January 2023
[2] “Establishing the Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology,” Press Release, the Office of the Spokesperson, US Department of State, Washington DC, 3 January 2023, at Accessed on 5 January 2023
[4] “Department Press Briefing – 3 January2023”, Ned Price, Department Spokesperson, US Department of State, Washington, D.C. 3 January 2023, at Accessed on 5 January 2023
[6]See National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies, the White House, Washington DC, October 2020 at Accessed on 7 January 2023
[7]NationalSecurity Strategy of the United States of America, the White House, Washington DC, December 2017, p. 21.
[8]Note 6, p. 1.
[9]Ibid. p. 2.
[10] “Trump Says Tariffs on Chinese Goods Will Increase to 25% on Friday”, Fox Business, 5 May 2019, at Accessed on 12 January 2023.
[11]President Trump signed an Executive Order in May 2019 banning the Huawei Technologies and also ZTE Corp. He invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), which authorizes US President to regulate international commerce in response to a national emergency that threatens the United States. Trump extended the ban in May 2020 for another year. See Brian Fung, “US Bans Huawei from Selling Telecom Gear and Threatens Its Supply Chain”, CNN Business, 16 May 2019 at Accessed on 14 January 2023
[12]Note 6, p. 1.
[13]Ibid. p. 2.
[14]Ibid. p. 3.
[15]Note 1.
[17]Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the White House, Washington DC, March 2021, p. 9.
[18] “USD(R&E) Technology Vision for an Era of Competition”, US Undersecretary of Defence, US Department of Defence, Washington DC, 1 February 2022, at Accessed on 15 January 2023.
[19] “Biden Administration Updates List of Critical and Emerging Technologies”, By John P. Barker Charles A. Blanchard Ronald D. Lee Soo-Mi Rhee Nancy L. Perkins Nicholas L. Townsend Trevor G. Schmitt Bell Johnson, 15 February 2022, at Accessed on 15 January 2023
[20]Note 17, p. 9.
[21] “Fact Sheet: Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States”, the White House, Washington DC, 11 February 2022 at Accessed on 9 January 2023
[22]National Security Strategy, the White House, Washington DC, October 2022, p. 21.
[23]2022 National Defence Strategy of the United States, the Department of Defence, Washington DC, 2022, p. 1.
[24]Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World, the White House, Washington DC, 4 February 2021, at Accessed on 10 January 2023
[25]Emma Kinery, “TSMC to up Arizona Investment to $40 billion with Second Semiconductor Chip Plant”, 6 December 2022 at Last accessed on 23 January 2023
[26] “Samsung Electronics Announces New Advanced Semiconductor Fab Site in Taylor, Texas”, Korea, 24 November 2021, at Last accessed on 23 January 2023
[27]Interim Report and Third QuarterRecommendations, National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), Washington DC, October 2020, p. 24.
[28]Saroj Bishoyi, “India-US forging tech alliance since long. Now use 2+2 dialogue to push it further”, The Print,New Delhi, 11 April 2022.
[29] “US-India Joint Leaders’ Statement: A Partnership for Global Good”, the White House, Washington, 24 September 2021 at Last accessed on 27 March 2023
[30]Saroj Bishoyi, “Growing India-US Ties in Critical & Emerging Tech”,The Pioneer, New Delhi, 5 June 2022.
[31]Fact Sheet: Quad Leaders’ Summit, the White House, Washington, 24 September 2021 at Last accessed on 27 March 2023
[32]See Saroj Bishoyi, “US-China Tech Rivalry: Pentagon Report on China’s Emerging Technology Strategy”, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), New Delhi, 21 December 2022 at Accessed on 20 January 2023.
[33] “Fact Sheet: President Biden Signs Executive Order to Implement the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022”, the White House, 9 August 2022 at Accessed on 6 January 2023.
[34]Commerce Implements New Export Controls on Advanced Computing and Semiconductor Manufacturing Items to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), US Department of Commerce (DoC), 7 October 2022, at; and, also see Implementation of Additional Export Controls: Certain Advanced Computing and Semiconductor Manufacturing Items; Supercomputer and Semiconductor End Use; Entity List Modification, Federal Register, Rules and Regulations, Vol. 87, No. 197, 13 October 2022, at Accessed on 7 January 2023.
[35] “Additions and Revisions to the Entity List and Conforming Removal from the Unverified List”, BIS, US DoC, Final rule at Accessed on 3 January 2023
[36]Julia Shapero, “36 Chinese Firms Added to US Export Blacklist”, The Hill, 15 December 2022 at; and, Orange Wang, “US Adds 36 Chinese Companies To Export Blacklist, Including Country’s Top Flash Memory Chip Maker”, South China Morning Post, 16 December 2022, at Accessed on 17 December 2022.
[37]Report to the President Revitalizing the U.S. Semiconductor Ecosystem, Executive Office of the President President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the White House, Washington DC, September 2022, p. 12.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

Image Source:

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
5 + 0 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
Contact Us