The West needs to respond to China’s bid for technology dominance: New report

“The desire of states to preserve their information sovereignty is becoming a major policy issue in what is threatening to become a new Cold War."
- Christopher Coker, Director at LSE IDEAS
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Western countries urgently need to develop a coordinated response to China’s growing dominance in the development of new technology. This is one of the key findings from a new report from LSE IDEAS, a foreign policy think tank based at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

In the new report, Protect, Constrain, Contest’, published this week, academics and China watchers set out the important policies needed to put Western relationships with China on a firmer and more manageable footing.

The report details concerns about China’s selective adherence to international trade rules, the use of investment in foreign companies to gain access to and control of advanced technologies and its abuse of economic power through unilateral and punitive tariffs. It provides recommendations as to how allies can present a coordinated front against such practices.

The authors also argue more needs to be done to protect and control access to Western technologies and reduce dependency on certain Chinese innovations (such as Huawei’s 5G), as well as ensuring such dependency does not recur in the future, for example with advancements in Artificial Intelligence. 

The report notes the West still outperforms China in most areas of advanced technology. However, it needs to build upon institutions (eg: legal and trade organisations) that underly and contribute to technological success; prioritise technological innovation in the long-term; strengthen labour forces; and learn from China’s industrial policy, for example in long-term finance and planning.

Commenting on the report, Christopher Coker, Director at LSE IDEAS said: “The desire of states to preserve their information sovereignty is becoming a major policy issue in what is threatening to become a new Cold War. Two sharply defined technological and online systems are emerging which may well govern the future development of AI, big data, quantum computing and 5G and quite possibly determine the future shape of cyber conflict from espionage to warfare.

“Without a common strategy on technology the relationship between western states and China may become increasingly transactional, in the process diminishing their overall security and threatening their digital sovereignty. This report explains the dangers of this happening and advances concrete policy prescriptions to avoid it. Unless countries feel secure, they are unlikely to avoid making the mistakes that in the past too often ended in great power conflict. 

Founding Director of LSE IDEAS Michael Cox added: “With the election of a new American President who seems to be committed to rebuilding transatlantic ties there is now hope that a new era is about to begin. Hopefully, this will not only be good for the transatlantic relationship. It may also help put the broader western relationship with China on a steadier and more manageable footing”.

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