An expert on U.S.-China relations said this week that when it comes to tech, the United States excels at inventing, but China beats out the U.S. in terms of applying new tech.

“U.S. is extremely good at upstream; it is not very good at downstream,” MIT Professor Yasheng Huang said during a Jan. 10 Brookings Institution panel discussion. He elaborated, “China is very good at applying knowledge and scaling the industry – scaling the invention.”

He jokingly said that in a perfect world, China and the U.S. would make a good married couple when it comes to emerging technologies.

“One is very good at inventing; the other is good at application,” Huang said.

During the panel about the future of the two countries’ competition for human capital, the professor emphasized that the U.S. could improve its innovation application efforts by broadening its education scope to build up the IT workforce.

“We are not doing a very good job at educating,” Huang said.

“China dominates the rest of the world in terms of human capital,” he said, adding, “Those are the struggles we’re faced with.”

He also noted that there are a lot of factors in place – including human capital – that enable innovation industries to take off faster in China than in the U.S.

Amy Nice, an immigration law and policy expert, echoed Huang’s sentiment that the U.S. must more efficiently attract and retain cyber talent to stay ahead of China in the race to be the most powerful country.

Nice said the nation has options in its toolbox that it needs to use “more aggressively and confidently” regarding attracting and retaining STEM talent – including offering education to students from kindergarten all the way through doctorate programs.

She added that one of America’s strengths is that STEM careers are offered across the country, and they’re not consolidated to just the major cities.

“People still want to come here and still want to contribute to our country, but also are looking for opportunity,” Nice said.

The panel discussion comes at a time when the Biden-Harris Administration is ramping up its efforts to push more cyber talent into the nation’s workforce.

Read More About
More Topics
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.