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.

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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These provocations are happening just as Iran inaugurates a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, and as talks continue over the possible US re-entry into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. What's the connection between these events? We asked Henry Rome, Eurasia Group's deputy head of research and a director covering global macro politics and the Middle East.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

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