On 18th September 2020, Takshashila Institution hosted the fourth #DeepWebinar in the China Challenge Series in partnership with Hudson Institute. The session focused on China’s technological rise and its implication on the world. It included Eric Brown, Senior Fellow at The Hudson Institute and Karthik Nachiappan, Research Fellow at NUS as panelists. Manoj Kewalramani, Research Fellow at The Takshashila Institution, anchored the discussion as the host. Saurabh Chandra(Co-Founder Ati-Motors), Shruthi Bhadri(Co-Founder Akimba), and Gaurav Jabulee (Alumnus Graduate Certificate in Public Policy) joined the #DeepWebinar as discussants, posing thoughtful questions and providing insightful comments.
The conversation began with deliberation on the contention between The US and China for Technological Supremacy in the world.
First of the panelists to speak Eric Brown stated that the competition between the two countries began back in 2008-09 during the Global Financial Crisis. Chinese leaders understood the political value of digital tech before the democratic world did. He further elaborated that China has created a successful surveillance state using AI and facial recognition technologies, and it is now exporting this model to other authoritarian regimes which will be dependent on it, through the Digital Silk Road project.
The second panelist Karthik Nachiappan said that until very recently the US was dismissive of China and considered it a copy cat nation. The rise of Chinese tech giants like Alibaba and Tencent, has meant that the global norms of privacy and data security are increasingly shifting towards Chinese views. He further added that the US-China tech war has now created a bifurcated tech world order, in which the economic and security costs for those countries that remain neutral is immense. India has to figure out what and where it wants to be.
In answer to an audience question the host elaborated how India must deal with China’s rising tech supremacy and said that the country needs robust regulations that while being attractive to foreign investors should not allow them to exploit sensitive data.
In response to another audience question about the exit of Chinese investment from certain markets Karthik Nachiappa observed that there is a lot of competition for capital investment around the world and that Singapore’s firms also wonder in what shape the investment landscape is going to emerge in the future. He said that with the exit of Chinese investment, other investment giants like Softbank may for example step in to fill the gap. He also observed that Indian tech firms are becoming keener to partner with their US counterparts.
In reply to a question by the discussant Shruthi Bhadri about whether China’s rise as a tech giant is a much-needed shot in the arm for American innovation, Eric Brown said that innovation is culturally ingrained in the US and recent innovation fatigue is a policy issue.
In reply to a question by the discussant Saurabh Chandra about how the US-China tech war could affect the physical supply chains of certain technologies, Eric Brown said that the US is now scrambling to remake major supply chains in order to decrease its dependence on China.
Eric Brown also highlighted that weaponisation of supply chains is not a unilateral move by US, it began with Australia and other nations and as a result supply chains are being scrambled and remade all around the world.
In response to the discussant Gaurav Jabulee’s question on what the US-China Tech war may mean for Taiwan and its relationship with India and the US, Karthik Nachiappan said that India should seek a deeper relationship with Taiwan for semiconductors and key tech collaboration going forward. The conversation was then concluded with an audience question about the private sector Big Tech companies in the contention between US and China for Tech Supremacy, to which Karthik Nachiappan observed that there is a lot of clout wielded by Indian “big tech” companies and this has an impact on policies, there is also a different “big tech” clout from the US companies and that has its own impact on policies. We might soon see a competition for impact on policies emerge. It is thus important to differentiate between the different “big tech” as we try to analyse their impact on policies going forward.
About the Takshashila Institution
The Takshashila Institution is an independent center for research and education in public policy. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates the values of freedom, openness, tolerance, pluralism and responsible citizenship. The Takshashila Institution seeks to transform India through better public policies, bridging the governance gap by developing better public servants, civil society leaders, professionals and informed citizens.
About Hudson Institute
Founded in 1961 by strategist Herman Kahn, Hudson Institute challenges conventional thinking and helps manage strategic transitions to the future through interdisciplinary studies in defense, international relations, economics, health care, technology, culture, and law. Hudson guides public policymakers and global leaders in government and business through a vigorous program of publications, conferences, policy briefings, and recommendations.The video of the #DeepWebinar can be assessed on Takshashila Institution’s Youtube Channel.