The Sino-American Tech Trap
The tech war now underway between the two superpowers could well be the defining struggle of the twenty-first century. But whereas China continues to play a long game, America’s tactical assault on China’s technology industry is all about short-term advantage.
NEW HAVEN – Technology is ground zero in the conflict between the United States and China. For the American hegemon, it is about the leading edge of geostrategic power and the means for sustained prosperity. For China, it holds the key to the indigenous innovation required of a rising power. The tech war now underway between the two superpowers could well be the defining struggle of the twenty-first century.
Huawei, China’s national technology champion, quickly became the lightning rod in the tech conflict between the incumbent power and the wannabe. Feared as the ultimate threat to US telecommunications infrastructure, Huawei has been cast as a modern-day Trojan Horse, complete with a potential backdoor threat in its world-class 5G platform that would make the mythological Helen smile. Supported by tenuous circumstantial evidence – a few espionage charges that have nothing to do with the suspected backdoor, and the presumption of nefarious motives from the long-ago military service of its founder, Ren Zhengfei – America’s case against Huawei is laced with false narratives.
The real issue in dispute is the murky concept of tech fusion – specifically, advanced technologies’ dual use for military and civilian commercial purposes. The US authorities are convinced that there is no such distinction in China. In their view, China’s state and, by inference, its military, ultimately owns everything that falls under the purview of its tech sector, from hardware and software to big data and the surveillance of those at home and abroad. That is also the essence of the growing outcry over the social-media platform TikTok, which has more than 80 million monthly users in the US.