What Does The Future Hold For China’s Tech Ambition?
What does the future hold for China’s tech ambition? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
China’s tech ambitions have grown staggeringly since I first started covering the industry in 2002. Even in those years, every single time a US trade official visited, the topic of forced technology transfer was on the table. Those issues were, and are at the heart of a possible trade war today. Are the Chinese government and companies ambitious? They are. Do they aspire to match US economic and tech prowess? They do. In fact, since President Xi Jinping took office, China’s domestic and global ambitions have grown by leaps and bounds.
But before we go further, let me take you backward and into the Chinese psyche. China claims a continuous civilization going back 5,000 years. For a lot of those years, China was the biggest economy in the world, alternating with India. And during most of that time, China was basically a closed society, with a fairly closed economy. Of course, it had been trading with partners near and far for eons (hello, silk road), and foreign traders were given limited physical access to work in China. Still, the exchange was pretty one sided.
Other countries bought a lot of stuff from China. And China mostly turned up its nose at what other countries had to sell. China was pretty self-sufficient and wanted to stay that way. To even out this trade imbalance, the Brits and the Americans resorted to smuggling drugs grown in British India to China. Yep, drugs – specifically opium. It was only by getting Chinese people addicted to opium that this trade imbalance was reversed. When China tried to stop the opium trade in the 1800s, a war erupted, and then another. China lost both wars and was forced to open up its economy. It was a pretty brutal way to enter the global marketplace. Shortly thereafter, along with decades of subsequent political upheaval, the Chinese economy began flatlining. And didn’t recover until the late 1970s.
All that is just my long-winded way of saying the Chinese economy was the envy of the world for thousands of years. Its period of diminution was only around 150 years, give or take. So, Chinese people have a deep-rooted belief that their economy and their country will one day rise again. That is, I think, the philosophical underpinnings of the.
These days, China is spending vast resources on developing robotics, AI, telecoms, semiconductors, nuclear technology, health research, and more. Whether it is successful is a. But it wants to be a world beater in tech. Also, China is absolutely obsessed with at least trying to invent its own technology. It’s not just a matter of national pride; it’s practical: China wants to stop paying high licensing fees to whoever holds the patents. Years ago, as a beat reporter, my job was to follow the ups and downs of China’s efforts to develop the TDS-CDMA cell phone standard. The whole initiative was government-backed and aimed to develop a Chinese alternative to globally dominant mobile phone technologies (which are GSM and WCDMA, btw). Some non-Chinese telecoms firms made a big song and dance about supporting it. But decades later, TDS-CDMA is still not a thing. The main message, though: China is trying and will keep trying to fulfil its tech ambitions.
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