GZERO Summit on geotech: US-China tech Cold War or “stable tension”?

Just a decade ago, China's rise — accomplished on the back of globalization — was welcomed by most of the world. That has changed over the past five years, especially in the realm of technology.

Now, China and the US, the world's two largest economies, are fighting what many are calling a "new Cold War" on tech, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer said during the panel discussion on geotech at the 2020 GZERO Summit in Japan.

Bremmer believes that this conflict won't end globalization but it is a confrontation that could dramatically change the trajectory of globalization as many countries are forced to pick sides on issues like artificial intelligence, data, or 5G.


One of these countries, for instance, is Japan, China's neighbor and a staunch US ally that is immensely worried about the growing tech confrontation between Beijing and Washington. For Japan, the coming "digital protectionism" is a huge threat, noted Hiroshi Kajiyama, the Japanese minister of economy, trade, and industry.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt prefers to call the US-China competition to lead global tech a "stable tension" in which both sides are racing to create global platforms. It's not a war because there still is some cooperation, but without trust because China plays by different rules.

Western players, including America, are used to playing by the rules set by institutions, but those matter much less than they used to in the era of cyber-awakening, when people have become empowered do do anything by the internet, suggested Jane Holl Lute, president and CEO of SIPCA North America.

For Bob Moritz, global chairman of the PwC Network, what Schmidt refers to as a "stable tension" is becoming increasingly volatile and often feels like it's approximating a Cold War, but at the end of the day companies around the world, and especially in China and the US, simply need to find ways to achieve digital transformation as Americans and Chinese battle it out in tech.

To do so, he said, firms must leverage the power of tech, innovation, and skills.

In the US-China tech rivalry, one major difference is strategy, or the lack of one. Bremmer said that China knows exactly what it wants to do on tech, while in the US everyone is angry about some aspect of Big Tech (size, profits, news on social media) but there's no single national strategy, which makes it harder for the US to compete with China.

As the "stable tension" continues over the next decade or two, Schmidt predicts that the power of new tech will favor a small number of players in the US and China, hollowing out the middle class of nations in favor of large, highly organized initiatives supported by big countries and economies. That geopolitical order will soon become unstable because the current system was set up to reflect a post-war liberal international order that doesn't call the shots anymore, Bremmer noted.

G-zero, he warned, cannot exist much longer before something breaks.

Watch the above video to learn more insights from our panelists on our vulnerability to cyber attacks, the promise of cyber deterrence, the US-China decoupling, how to fix US Big Tech, and why Europe can't create global tech platforms.

We pay little attention to the waves of the sea, yet they are the greatest unused source of renewable energy in the world. Meet ISWEC and Power Buoy, two interesting new technologies used to harness this energy. Learn more about the extraordinary power of waves in this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series, where we investigate interesting facts and trends about energy.

Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens before the rest of the world, has been effective for rich nations like the United States and Israel. But leaving behind so much of the global population isn't just a humanitarian issue. It could prolong the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who argues that what the global vaccination effort most urgently lacks are doses, not dollars. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, she calls for a large increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and suggests we may be seeing alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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