Imitation Game: How the West is Going China's Way

Imitation Game: How the West is Going China's Way

There's growing optimism that the US and China will soon wrap up a deal to end their $360 billion trade and tariffs spat. But even if China agrees to buy more US petroleum and soybeans or ease requirements that foreign companies hand over intellectual property, President Trump's negotiators are unlikely to get Beijing to bend on a more fundamental issue: the state's heavy hand in directing the economy and the advantages it gives many Chinese companies.


In China's state-capitalist system, the government owns many enormous companies and heavily subsidizes others. It uses its control over these firms to achieve its national development goals, setting priorities by issuing top-down plans that serve as blue prints for the private sector to follow. The Chinese model has been wildly successful – it's lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and vaulted China into the ranks of the world's top technology powers.

The United States has historically taken the opposite approach. The US generally doesn't "do" industrial planning. It views the government's main role as staying out of the way of private sector innovation rather than enabling it. Moreover, today Washington sees Beijing's support for its domestic tech sector and other strategic industries as a form of cheating, because it gives Chinese companies an unfair advantage. US tariffs on billions of dollars of Chinese goods are meant in part to pressure China to adopt a more free-market approach.

But China is unlikely to budge. It views its support for domestic industries as essential to meeting its economic and technological goals, and ultimately to maintaining the Communist Party's grip on power.

In the meantime, at least in the all-important tech sector, Europe and the US are starting to embrace a more pro-active role for government.

Last week, the economy ministers of Germany and France unveiled a "manifesto" for a new European industrial policy. With no Silicon Valley of its own, they argued that Europe needs to do more to support its home-grown companies as they digitize or risk losing its competitive edge.

They want to boost funding for companies working on technologies like AI, change EU antitrust rules to allow national industrial champions to get even bigger, and protect domestic tech companies from foreign (read: Chinese) takeovers. Faced with a rival economic power that's willing to put the full weight of the state behind its technology and industrial development, Europe's two most important economies seem to be saying, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" – at least in strategically vital sectors like technology.

That kind of state-driven approach will be a much tougher sell in the United States, but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich penned a little-noticed op-ed in Newsweek last week in which he argued that the US should develop a national policy for next-generation 5G mobile networks. He warned that America's "laissez-faire tendencies" had allowed China to gain an edge in a critical technology, and that without a better strategy, the US could awake to "find that the Chinese have occupied the overwhelming position in wireless on the geostrategic map." His solution? Create a public-private partnership to build a "nationwide" 5G network – a "kind of wireless moonshot (but with private capital)" over the next two to three years.

The US and Europe aren't about to become state-capitalist, but in the tech sector at least, a dawning realization that China won't change is persuading even some of the world's most dedicated free-marketers to think in terms of "Manhattan Projects" and "moonshots" to ensure that government and industry are riding the same train toward the future.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

More Show less

Iranians head to the polls on June 18, in what's widely perceived to be a foregone outcome. Analysts predict that popular disillusionment with Iran's political class will make this one of the lowest turnout elections in Iran's post-revolution history. According to one poll taken by the Iranian Students Polling Agency, as few as 42 percent of the eligible voting population is expected to show up. We take a look at contemporary Iran's demographics, and how this year's vote turnout might compare to previous elections.

In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

More Show less

Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, for instance, which is shut out from COVAX due to US sanctions imposed on the Maduro regime.

More Show less

3: China has launched three astronauts into orbit in its first space mission since 2016. The astronauts will spend three months aboard the country's new space station, demonstrating China's resolve to become a space power — following successful earlier missions to collect soil samples on the Moon and land a wheeled robot on Mars — in a bid to exert its superpower bonafides.

More Show less

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

More Show less

Frequently called Europe's last dictator, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Lukashenko has sailed smoothly to victory in all six elections he's stood in, despite widespread corruption and fraud in each one. But in 2020 the biggest threat so far to Lukashenko's tight grip on government came in an unlikely package—a former schoolteacher and stay at home mom, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. After the election result was finalized, Lukashenko claimed victory, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets, and Tsikhanouskaya leads the opposition in exile. Lukashenko recently took his boldest move yet, diverting a plane en route from Greece to Lithuania to arrest another Belarusian dissident. Ian Bremmer discusses whether a democratic transition is remotely possible in Belarus on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The fight for democracy in Europe's last dictatorship

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World Podcast

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal