This article is not a political swipe or advocating for one country over another. It’s simply some observations from a Canadian who perceives the US, China and others as going through formidable change.
The world has changed and geopolitics, national economies and the environment have altered the way we trade, work and live.
We are in the midst of a Tech War just as the USA signed a comprehensive trade deal with Canada/US/Mexico then with China. In fact, the first salvos indicating a tech war were fired at Chinese tech giant, Huawei, supposedly over their 5G technology. Huawei is a prime example of global tech tensions. Washington has been pressuring its allies since 2018 to keep the Chinese company’s equipment out of their 5G networks.
The new tech war is a much larger problem than one might suspect. In a trade war, the exchange of goods between two countries is affected. With respect to the US and China that represents just over a trillion dollars a year. In a tech war it stands to disrupt and affect the entire global financial structure, the internet and everything else.
Trump hit a core issue with his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. US voters were quick to jump on Trump’s slogan because, they felt, they had lost something. Most Western countries became nations of rampant consumers instead of builders.
This doesn’t explain the reasons for a tech war! Behind Trump’s nationalism to save American jobs there were calls for closure of international trade deals starting with Huawei. The fears of national security issues brought every civilized country into the fray with fears that tech in the hands of the Chinese would affect them as well. What appeared to be a US/China rift became an issue of who was going to dominate the entire tech sector particularly the ICT one.
The tech war is for ‘all the marbles’, i.e. global domination of the information & communications sector. This attempt at hegemony is without the leadership component part of world domination because it is impossible for one country to completely dominate the world.
Following the US companies’ domination of tech by IBM and Microsoft in the 1980’s, China pent billions to develop the best technologies including microchips, wireless technology, robotics and more to cease their reliance on foreign technology.
Trump’s nationalism spelled trouble from the beginning. Unlike the US, most countries felt the world was their trading partner. Trump started with close neighbors Canada and Mexico to espouse his new plan of nationalism. The geopolitics was easy to understand with the tri-country free trade zone, others represented a divergence of thought.
Suddenly people began thinking that a country with vast trading particularly in technology had more control than others. US President Donald Trump on March 2, 2018 tweeted, “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win.” Thus began a less than willing approach to keeping the status quo.
Is it protectionism or nationalism? Probably a bit of both as the US hungry for new jobs and China/EU eyeing US markets fight it out in a war of words and tariffs. The tech war puts the actual reasons into perspective. In 40 years, China went from the obscure market with cheap labor to the leading developers of new generation innovation including nanotechnology, biotech, internet finance, hi-speed rail and 5G.
Many in the world have suspected that the US and China have sought global dominance/leadership in an effort to promote their own interests. Trump’s nationalist approach has thrown a wrench into the theory.
No one country will win a trade war! But whoever leads the world in technology will be a major force. On the surface it appears there is a battle for nations to promote their unique nationalism, others see it as protectionism. For innovation to continue and for everyone to get in on the positive changes coming there needs to globalization.
Some tech leaders have expressed the view that protectionism and nationalism are putting a strain on the development of tech platforms to be a global company. Life in the future will certainly be less globalized after this tech war.
Global tensions are also causing countries to view tech firms as “national sectors, and not global actors,” said Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center who studies cybersecurity and US-China relations. Countries are being warned, particularly but the US that companies operating in different parts of the world are “being asked to carry the flags of their country”, (CNN). Is it a wonder there isparanoia?
Consider the imbroglio with this years tech darling Tiktok. A Chinese company with a US CEO being seen as a threat to national security. Countries are considering banning this innocuous silly entertainment over concerns by Secretary of State Pompeo. Maybe they will look at Facebook and Twitter next — where does it all end?
Living in Vancouver, I’ve seen firsthand what appears to be tech war manipulation by the US and China in the 2018 arrest of Huawei’s CFO, Sabrina Meng (Meng Wanzhou) for fraud and an attempt by the US to extradite her to the US for trial. The US used Canada to join their side of the tech war.
Meng’s lawyers claim the case that the United States submitted to Canada is “replete with intentional and reckless error.” Meng’s lawyers claim that she was a victim of political interference by U.S. President Trump, who indicated shortly after Meng’s arrest that he would intervene in the case if it might result in a better trade deal with China.
While Ms. Meng’s case is being fought in the Canadian courts, the problem arises that other countries are being rallied against other economic partners (in this case Canada & China) putting countries in the middle of a tech war no one wants.
In 2017, Huawei surpassed the US in semi-conductor development beating Qualcomm and Intel. 5G is at the forefront of Chinese technology and is the foundation for next gen tech like AI, machine learning and the Internet of things. 5G will replace WiFi, IR remotes, indoor broadband and more. Huawei’s new Hsilicon 7nm chips used in 5G is two generations ahead of US industry standards ands its 5G antennas are able to hold 2.5 times anyone’s network capacity while using 30% less energy.
Considering this vast technological switch in dominance it’s forcing nations and companies to chose sides. CNN (July 2020) said that nationals and companies are being sucked into the tech war between China and the USA that is totally affecting the global supply chain.
I can see how China and the US want and need tech dominance or at least self-reliance, however, Canada has had a good relationship with both the US and China.
It seems to me that we need to encourage our leaders to overcome this ever-growing divide between us. Business does not have to be a wedge to stop the sharing of technical innovation and trade. Canada should try to recover our former friendship and realize we need each other before we all becomes victims of the tech war.
I’d like to suggest that the leaders and consumers detach themselves emotionally and learn how to collaborate. Once the nation builders are done, they will have to collaborate with the rest of the world.
We all have too much to share!