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This background report provides a general overview of the evolution of the critical issue of business and trade in U.S.-China relations and its wider implications for world affairs.

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February 20, 2019

E-Commerce, Mobile Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, and U.S.-China Relations Background Report

Technological breakthroughs have revolutionized the global economy and transformed the way people live. E-commerce—the conducting of commercial transactions digitally—has created innovative new companies and spurred economic growth. U.S. tech companies shaped the early e-commerce landscape, but China has become the world’s largest online retail market with the creation of e-commerce giant Alibaba. China has also moved up the global value chain from a supplier of mobile components to a world-leading producer of mobile products. Connected to these shifts in the supply chain are technology-driven advances in manufacturing, where U.S.-developed technologies have blazed the trail but China is now at the forefront.

The U.S. and Chinese governments have become increasingly engaged with one another as companies compete in selling final products both abroad and in their respective home markets. However, U.S. and Chinese supply chains are starting to become disentangled. Differing national policies, conceptions of internet governance, and approaches to managing the tension between national security and international manufacturing processes are among the challenges the bilateral relationship faces in paving the way for a mutually prosperous future.

How are the United States and China responding to these challenges domestically and internationally? What are the political and economic changes exerting pressure on the bilateral relationship, and what are the drivers behind these changes? How should they improve their emerging regulatory frameworks? And how should government and businesses in both countries work together to advance an effective global regulatory regime? This report provides the necessary background to start answering these key questions. It presents an overview of the recent history of mobile technology, e-commerce, and advanced manufacturing as global phenomena and as policy challenges confronting the United States and China.

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