The US, meanwhile, is unsettled by China’s rapid expansion into the frontier technologies. President Donald Trump is set to help the US solidify, or regain, its position as a global innovation hub, despite his complicated love-hate relationship with the tech industry. In February, Trump signed an executive order to maintain America’s leadership in artificial intelligence. Last month, the White House revived the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a group of experts who work to inform public policy on science, technology, education and homeland security.
The private sector is an important source of innovation in the US, as epitomised by Google’s milestone achievement in quantum computing – a technology that will produce a strong symbiosis with artificial intelligence and cryptography.
The de facto punchline of Trump’s tech move, though, was to cut Chinese companies off America’s technology value chain, especially the core scientific know-how. Over the course of the year, Washington repeatedly put pressure on Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone maker Huawei and blacklisted it, citing the company’s alleged coziness with the Chinese government, while reining back China’s dominance in 5G technology. Another 28 Chinese companies were later added to the blacklist, including the supercomputer maker Sugon along with three of its microchip subsidiaries.
Given the intensity and speed at which the rivalry is escalating, Zuckerberg’s warning is not totally unjustified. If China’s digital currency is adopted in more countries, America’s oversight and regulation of the global financial system will become challenging. This gap will only increase as the two countries diverge further into separate trajectories of the technology.
Hostile competition is likely to result in a zero-sum game. Continued blacklisting will do more harm than good, wreaking havoc on jobs and disrupting the global technology supply chain. As China develops applications of blockchain system, it should adopt best practices and international benchmarks, and establish a clearer, full-bodied legislative framework.