As a trade dispute escalates between the United States and China, the U.S. tech industry is keen to see changes by the Asian giant–but opinions vary on how hard to push.

U.S. business and labor leaders agree that China ought to adjust the value of its currency and do a better job of protecting intellectual property rights. But while industry leaders favor milder steps, worker advocates want more aggressive action. They argue a sweeping tariff on Chinese goods may be needed to stop job losses and level the playing field.

Critics, though, warn such a move could trigger a trade war that hurts U.S. tech companies, many of which have operations in China.

There’s still more at stake, said Richard Suttmeier, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. If the involvement of U.S.-based tech companies in China declines, Beijing’s ambitious plans for technological advancement could wind up threatening America economically and on the geopolitical stage, Suttmeier said.

“We’re better off if we keep China integrated into this global system whereby their technological progress is co-evolving, if you will, with the technological progress of multinational companies,” he said.

China and the United States have been butting heads on trade matters for years. A key flash point is the U.S. goods trade deficit with China, which rose from $29.5 billion in 1994 to $162 billion last year.

The countries have grown more combative in the past week or so. The U.S. has moved to impose quotas on certain Chinese textiles and apparel products, and U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow chided China publicly over its currency policy.

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