China expert: Time short to halt Beijing’s march to dominate tech

China’s tech industry is poised to “dominate,” to the “detriment” of the world, warns Asia expert Gordon G. Chang.

“The window in which American actions can be effective is narrowing,” wrote Chang in a column for the Gatestone Institute,  where he is a senior fellow.

“This is, therefore, the time to stop China before, by hook or by crook, it dominates technology to the detriment of the world.”

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Chang explained that the Chinese under Communist Party rule are not natural innovators, since they are “a land of rule-bound rote learners.”

And President Xi Jingping “is fast eliminating the one essential ingredient of innovation: freedom.”

Still, China has established itself as a tech leader as it races “to own the technologies of this century.”

“Beijing spends enormous sums pursuant to meticulously crafted multiyear programs, like the 13th Five-Year Plan, the Digital Silk Road effort, and the infamous Made in China 2025 initiative,” Chang explained. “When China spends, it spends big. Premier Li Keqiang, while issuing his Work Report at the National People’s Congress meeting at the end of last month, announced a campaign to build ‘new types of infrastructure,’ in other words, technology.

He said China, therefore, is going on a tech-spending binge.

“More than a dozen Chinese municipalities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have since the beginning of this year committed to spend $935 billion, and corporations like Alibaba and Tencent will chip in. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology talks about the country committing $1.4 trillion in the next five years.”

The spending also means bureaucrats can hire all the creative talent from foreign nations.

He cited analyst David Goldman, a columnist for Asia Times, who said, “For the first time in its long history, China has succeeded in recruiting Western innovators on a large scale.”

That includes some 50,000 foreigners working for China’s Huawei Technologies, featuring “some of Europe’s best scientists and engineers in the field.”

In the field of quantum communications, for example, Chang noted China used an American breakthrough and combined it with expertise from Vienna to create “for itself at least a half-decade lead.”

Then, there’s the regime’s “plundering” of Google.

The digital giant already runs an AI center in Beijing and works with the nation’s two leading universities, Peking and Tsinghua.

“Yet the company has larger plans. ‘As Google’s AI research ramps up in China, they will ultimately need greater capabilities than a built-from-scratch cloud computing firm can provide,’ Brandon Weichert of the Weichert Report told Gatestone. ‘So it is inevitable that Google will attempt to either partner with or purchase a Chinese cloud computing firm, like Tencent,'” Chang said.

“America’s artificial intelligence efforts get an indirect boost from Google’s operations in China, but China is benefiting a lot more, especially because tech, like water, flows downhill. Moreover, tech transfers to the Chinese pose a threat to Americans because of Beijing’s policy of ‘civil-military fusion.’ This policy means there is no such thing as civilian-only tech cooperation in that country. The technologies that Beijing manages to beg, borrow, or steal — often steal — is directly pipelined to the People’s Liberation Army.”

Incidentally, Chang noted, Google refused to work with the U.S. Defense Department on artificial intelligence even while it helped the Chinese military in that field.

“At the moment, a complete ban on technology transfers looks drastic and therefore unlikely. There are, however, two reasons why China may not be able to get its hands on the tech it needs, ban or no ban,” Chang said. “First, China’s market is losing its attractiveness. The economy is in distress, suffering from both the coronavirus pandemic and systemic weaknesses, like excessive indebtedness, smothering state controls, and xenophobic hostility to foreign investment.”

He continued: “Second, China is taking on the world — both neighbors and faraway countries — with its fierce ‘wolf warrior diplomacy.’ Its wolfish approach is having consequences. For instance, China’s killing of 20 Indian soldiers on Indian-controlled territory in the Himalayas on June 15 will probably lead to a ban on Huawei telecommunications equipment in India, perhaps even a ‘rip and replace’ effort.”

President Trump has responded with sanctions, but China’s solution is “to steal as much as it can and buy tech wherever possible,” Chang said.

For example, it reportedly is considering buying South Korea’s Samsung, the world’s No. 1 maker of smartphones, to obtain 5G chips.

“It’s now or never,” Chang said. “Now is the time to shut down Beijing’s massive, state-directed, and government-funded effort to dominate the world’s technologies.”

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