Although a large majority oppose broad-based decoupling, more than two-thirds of respondents support blocking Huawei from the U.S. 5G market (35% would also ban the trade of high-tech components with Chinese companies such as Huawei, and another 17% would do that and sanction third countries that do not do the same).

CSIS | Thought Leaders Q31

By the Numbers

  • 35%

    of U.S. national security and business experts support blocking Huawei and other Chinese firms from the U.S. 5G market and banning all U.S. exports to those companies

  • 20%

    of U.S. national security and business experts support banning Huawei from the U.S. 5G market but want to allow U.S. firms to continue exporting high-tech components to those companies.

National security experts are more likely to support banning trade in telecom components than business experts (42% and 16%, respectively).

The strong support for banning Huawei and other Chinese companies from the 5G market tracks with the views of thought leaders in Europe and Asia, as does the mix of views on how much to restrict technology flows to companies such as Huawei. In Asia and Europe, 67% of thought leaders support a ban on Huawei in their 5G markets, and among those who want to ban Huawei, 30% want to ban trade in telecom components. Looking specifically at the leading manufacturers of semiconductors, 85% of respondents from Japan, 82% of respondents from Taiwan, and 76% of respondents from South Korea support banning Huawei’s entry into their 5G markets. Among those who want to ban Huawei, a majority of respondents from Taiwan (54%) a plurality from Japan (44%) also support a ban on trade in telecom components. This result, coupled with the emphasis on multilateral approaches to China, strongly suggests that there would be political support for international efforts to establish rules on 5G market access and technology transfer.

Overall, American thought leaders are most prepared to have some level of decoupling in the area of technology, but not manufacturing or services trade. On a scale of 1–10, where "1" means "best to pursue full decoupling from China" and "10" means "best to move for deeper economic integration," the mean response from thought leaders on R&D, trade, and investment in advanced technologies is 4.46—more toward decoupling. On the other hand, the mean response on trade in agriculture, manufactured goods, and services is 7.17—more toward economic integration. Thought leaders’ views are more mixed on Chinese investment in the United States and U.S. investment in China: the mean for Chinese portfolio investment in U.S. financial services is 5.25; the mean for Chinese direct investment in U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, and services is 5.26; the mean for U.S. portfolio investment in Chinese financial services is 5.37; and the mean for U.S. direct investment in Chinese agriculture, manufacturing, and services is 5.83.

One business leader noted this data suggests a need for pursuing "strategic engagement and strategic decoupling" and articulating the benefits of partial economic engagement with China.

Those engaged in academic and civil society exchange with China were most hesitant to limit technology cooperation and R&D. On the same 1–10 scale, the mean response for civil society leaders is toward economic integration, at 5.79—significantly higher than the means of other thought leader groups. One president of a major research university who took the survey and met with the CSIS team said that cutting off China on pandemic research would have set his top medical experts back a month in the search for a vaccine. Another major research university president argued that the focus on patents and government work and monetizing basic research is the problem, not Chinese researchers per se. This academic leader suggested that the solution was to keep doctoral students from engaging in proprietary work. Across the board, the university presidents and deans who took the survey and agreed to interviews said that open academic exchange with China was critical and that cutting off China would accelerate Beijing’s effort to compete directly, but also that restrictions are nonetheless coming and that the United States needs a less self-damaging approach to the problem of R&D with China.

The 2020 Chicago Council survey found that the American public also favors limiting technology trade with China on a bipartisan basis. Overall, 74% want to prohibit the sale of high-tech products to China, and 69% support prohibiting Chinese technology companies from building communications networks in the United States. Across the political spectrum, 85% percent of Republicans, 74% of independents, and 67% of Democrats favor prohibiting U.S. companies from selling high-tech products to China, and 79% of Republicans, 68% of independents, and 62% of Democrats support prohibiting Chinese tech companies from building communications networks in the United States. The survey results demonstrate that this view is broadly supported across different sectors of the U.S. economy and among thought leaders in allied and partner countries.