How China's technology development affects other countries

innovation: Europe in the technology clamp between the USA and China


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Technology can support or undermine democratic values. So if China and the US are driving AI and other innovations, how should Europe position itself? Olaf Groth and Tobias Straube argue that decisions should be based on values.

Europe's attempt to avoid the US-China Cold War for technology leadership by advancing a "third path" that focused on protecting the privacy and individual privacy ended on May 16, 2019.

That day quoted a report from the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant Information from intelligence officials that the Chinese have access to sensitive data of Dutch citizens through a hidden back door in Huawei devices. Although this incident has already receded into the background in the European daily media, it was a wake-up call for Europe, which unfortunately received insufficient attention. Because the protests in Hong Kong are currently showing how strategically China is using its technology.

And in Germany, too, voices have repeatedly been heard calling for Huawei to be banned from participating in the development of 5G networks. Back in May, the Trump administration began tightening restrictions on Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies - a move that some in the global technology race have called a "nuclear option." The description may be hyperbolic, but this new phase of tensions between the digital tech superpowers USA and China will force other countries - including Europe - to choose sides.

With SAP as the only global player in the digital high-tech area, the European continent has not developed a significant counter-model to compete with the technological performance of the USA and China. While the US has long been a leader in high-tech innovations, Europe's lack of technological projection capability has become painfully apparent with China's rapid rise to hegemonic power in the digital space.

China owes its rapidly growing technological importance to national champions like Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, cemented by a vast ecosystem of gladiator-like AI startups. Due to the far-reaching Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the country is also driving its influence around the world, with infrastructure investments in more than seventy countries that together account for 46 percent of global gross domestic product.

Europe too has long since become the BRI's sphere of influence. Some of the European Union's neighbors, such as the Balkans, now have large debts with China. In addition, some EU member and partner countries such as Greece, Italy and Switzerland have joined the BRI, making it difficult for the EU to find a common strategy to deal with China as a "strategic competitor" and a "systemic competitor".

Harmful influence from AI companies

Although the Chinese presence has had a positive impact on national income in some countries, it would be naive to ignore the dangers posed by the BRI and parallel digital developments for the much vaunted European values ​​and the continent's focus on protecting the individual . Press reports on Chinese espionage through Huawei technologies highlight these potential dangers.

Of course, American AI companies also exert their own considerable and sometimes harmful influence on Europe. Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal is just the most prominent of many disturbing abuses of power by Silicon Valley tech giants. Google's alleged intention to launch a censored search engine in China, Microsoft's partnership with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or controversy over Amazon's facial recognition software don't exactly create goodwill among consumers and governments around the world.

It also comes with trumps America-FirstApproach that prefers confrontation to cooperation, narrowing the space for multilateral solutions in these areas. Add to this the possibility that American dominance in technological spheres over China, including artificial intelligence technologies, will decline over the next five years, and so many Europeans are rightly wondering whether the US is the most important partner for innovation in the emerging fourth industrial revolution is.