The Coming Tech Topography

Is This the Great Decoupling of China and the U.S. – and with Them: The Rest of the World?

digital line

We are more than a year into the «trade war» between the U.S. and China, and there is little anyone can agree on – except for the fact that this isn’t really about trade anymore (and perhaps never has been). What this is really about is technology. And it might head towards a world that is essentially split in two by tech. 

Why is this conflict emerging now? There are, I believe, at least three reasons. The first, and most visible, has to do with a growing scepticism towards China in recent years – and with that, a higher scrutiny of its technology sector. Simply put, it just matters more where your technology comes from than it did 15 years ago, especially if this technology is relevant to a country’s security.

Secondly, this is about dominating a market – and with that, being able to set the respective standards. So far, this power has been residing squarely in the West, and mostly in the U.S. But that may be changing, and whoever is able to set the technology standards will have an edge in whatever the industries that will drive future growth are.

But thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, this is also about different attitudes towards technology and the promises it carries: Between our societies, which – after Trump, fake news, digital monopolies and privacy worries – have become cautious about the effects digital technology can have on us; and an emerging country, China, that views technology as an essential enabler of its progress.

 

Nico Luchsinger
Co-Executive Director


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