US vs. China Tech Competition: An Exploration of Scenarios

We are at a unique moment in the history of technology evolution, trade, and competition. There are so many forces at work at the same time, the intersections and interactions of these disparate yet connected trends will shape technology and societies for decades to come.  The pace of change in technology has also accelerated. It is also becoming clear that the traditional policy frameworks to manage growth and competitiveness are not working. Further complicating the economic trends are the trade disputes and how countries are jostling to position themselves in the evolving Connected Intelligence economy. We are seeing increased anxiety at every level of the food-chain with regulators unable to comprehend the degree of change and how to manage the scores of technologies that are going to shape the next 20-30 years of the global economy.

US has led the technology world for the last several decades with most of the meaningful inventions and startups emerging out of the market. Its free-market system has served the nation and the world very well. Over the last decade, China has grown to be both a big trading partner as well as a fearsome competitor. Leveraging its size and future growth, China has set a strategic roadmap that brings us to this unique moment in history. Policy makers and companies are having a difficult time understanding the complexity of the interconnected economies and the technologies and in figuring out the roadmap for the next few months, let alone for the next 50 years. The rise of China has been so fast and so dramatic that one has to wonder if the two powers can coexist and engage in coopetition or are we slowly marching towards the Thucydides’s trap?

To contemplate the future, one must understand the past. Historical underpinnings shape narratives and future course of action. Can US and China develop a modern framework to work together or does ones ascendency come at the peril of another? Will Europe be a bystander and neutral as has been its preference in the past decade or will it be more assertive? Will new alliances split the world based on their short-term interests? How does this all impact the tech and the wireless industry? How should executives strategize growth in a multipolar world? These questions have been several decades in the making, so, we won’t find answers to them in a few weeks or even years, but solutions start from having an understanding of the reality. At a time when international trade, policy and tech growth trajectories are merged at the hip, leaders must acknowledge that the world has changed from 30-40 years ago and figure out a growth canvas that is mutually beneficial and sustainable.

Corporations are having a hard time competing in the age of monopolies and protectionist regimes. A lot of the political systems that were stable for the last 50 years are starting to fall apart and the level of uncertainty is starting to creep up. Amidst all this change and chaos, how should countries think about policy making, embracing technologies, innovation, competition, and cooperation? Can we learn from history? What’s the way forward? What scenarios will play out? Are we going to see Slowbalization or Splinternet or something entirely different? Is China’s ascendancy overstated? Each scenario presents its own set of challenges and strategic responses. We are clearly at an unprecedented time in the history of the world, not just in the evolution of the tech sector. There is no guidebook, no precedent for dealing with these unusual times.

The paper takes a deeper look into the historical trends governing US and China relations through the technology lens, how their economies are shaping in the Connected Intelligence Age, the impact on the tech sector specifically on the wireless and adjacent industries; and which future technologies will need special treatment. The paper explores the necessary steps that regulators, policy makers, and the major tech players need to take to ensure we have a thriving and competitive economy for the coming decades. The paper discusses the various US vs. China scenarios that could unfold over the course of this decade and explores the strategies that companies must focus on to manage risk and growth.

  • Introduction
  • Historical Context
  • The Rise of the Connected Intelligence Era
  • Coopetition or Thucydides’s Trap?
  • US vs. China: Current state of affairs and the Wireless market
  • Huawei ban and its implications
  • The Key sectors of emerging technologies
  • Likely Scenarios
  • Policy making in the Connected Intelligence Era
  • Recommendations
  • Future Work

Editorial Notes:

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