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China Won’t Wait; It’s Time to Take the Innovation Race Seriously Again

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Petty Officer 1st Class Kris Lindstrom

The Chinese spy balloon affair makes one thing perfectly clear: In the innovation race to control the technologies of tomorrow, China has already reached parity with the U.S. on the technological front – and if we don’t draw the right lessons from this episode and act on them properly, we may, before long, find ourselves defeated in a competition we cannot afford to lose. 


For many, this may become a “Sputnik moment,” explained by Roger Launius, senior curator of the National Air and Space Museum’s division of space history at the Smithsonian Institution, as “a trigger mechanism, an event that makes people collectively say that they need to do something, and this sets a course in another direction.” 

To watch, seemingly helplessly, as a surveillance platform launched by a foreign power with hostile intent traversed the course of our nation from northwest to southeast over the course of an entire week left many of us wondering what in the world was going on with our nation’s leadership – because we were not helpless, we were merely made to feel that way by our leaders’ failure to act to defend our nation. And even after President Biden addressed the nation last week – for all of seven minutes – to explain what was going on, we are still left with more questions than answers. 

In previous instances of national concern, with similar episodes that seized our attention and focus, our nation was able quickly to unite behind a course of action. Whether it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or the actual launching of the Russian Sputnik satellite, or Al Qaeda’s attack on 9/11, we shed our red shirts and our blue shirts and instead traded them for our red, white, and blue shirts, rallying as Americans, and then moved forward to the task at hand – because we had leaders who communicated a unifying message that brought us together. 


But this time we may not be able to rise to face the challenge. Biden may not be able to rally us as we have been rallied in the past by previous presidents. His personal character flaws – the deep lack of trust the American people have in him, as reflected in a recent poll – may make that task impossible. 

Worse, Biden has played into his divisiveness. Not too long ago, he stood in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a shrine to freedom, and used that hallowed ground as the backdrop for a rhetorical attack on his political opponents in an attempt to shame the tens of millions of his fellow countrymen who had exercised their choice to vote against him. He succeeded in driving a wedge through the country. And now, when he needs to unite us, he finds it challenging. 

That does not make the task any less important. It just makes it more difficult. 

However, since we face our generation’s “Sputnik Moment,” I’ll step up and ask Americans to unite around a common cause to help ensure America continues to lead and maintains control of tomorrow’s technologies and innovations.  

To that end, Tea Party Patriots Action recently released a documentary movie called Innovation Race, which is available on Salem Now’s streaming service. No matter who is in charge of our country, to beat the Chinese in the innovation race to determine who controls the technology of tomorrow, we must protect our intellectual property rights, most especially the intellectual property of the inventors and innovators of the world.  


To do that, a bipartisan consensus is emerging – Delaware Democrat Sen. Chris Coons and Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie suggest reforms to American intellectual property law, including restoring the doctrines of “first to invent” and injunctive relief and eliminating the current Patent and Trial Advisory Board.  

This is not a solution to all of today’s problems, not by a long shot. These are merely low-cost ways to restore the property rights of inventors, who will then have incentives to help us invent and innovate to beat China in the innovation race for who leads and controls tomorrow’s technology – which will include, but certainly will not be limited to, balloons and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.  

Imagine what we could do if we could unite as Americans behind the simple premise that America must continue to lead innovation in the world. Together, we could ensure the next century is, as was the last, an American Century. 


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