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General News    H4'ed 8/18/20

Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, Donald Trump Is Losing His Tech War with Xi Jinping

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Forget those negotiations with China spearheaded by the man who boasted that he was the maestro of "the art of the deal." Recently, it's been an all-hands-on-deck assault on that country: from deploying U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea to the sudden and arbitrary closing of a Chinese consulate in Houston. Of all people, Health Secretary Alex Azar was even dispatched to Taiwan, that other China, to meet and greet the country's president, the highest-ranking official American visitor to do so in four decades. Of course, as with so much in the age of Trump, there was a grimly comic aspect to his trip, since he made a particular point of praising the way a democratic country could handle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic (a howler, given how Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump have each handled that same virus). And that's just to start down a list that, from TikTok bans to criminal charges against four members of the Chinese military, only continues to grow as The Donald and crew become ever more belligerent about that rising power on a falling planet.

As TomDispatch regular Dilip Hiro, author of After Empire: The Birth of a Multipolar World, suggests today, behind the growing belligerence of the Trump administration, which should be considered dangerous indeed at this moment -- think new Cold War -- lies the anger of a president whose world seems to be slipping out of control. Back in 2016, I suggested that Donald Trump was running as this country's first declinist presidential candidate (the clue lay in that hardly noticed "again" at the end of his election slogan Make America Great Again, or MAGA). And, as Hiro suggests today, looking at the high-tech business world, he's delivered big time.

Whether negotiating with China, North Korea, or any other country, the art-of-the-dealer-in-chief has proven to be either a stealer-in-chief or an unreeler-in-chief. So say goodbye to the American Century but, given the state of this planet, don't count on a Chinese Century either. Tom

Whose Century Is It?
Don't Ask Donald Trump
By Dilip Hiro

For the Trump administration's senior officials, it's been open season on bashing China. If you need an example, think of the president's blame game about "the invisible Chinese virus" as it spreads wildly across the U.S.

When it comes to China, in fact, the ever more virulent criticism never seems to stop.

Between the end of June and the end of July, four members of his cabinet vied with each other in spewing anti-Chinese rhetoric. That particular spate of China bashing started when FBI Director Christopher Wray described Chinese President Xi Jinping as the successor to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. It was capped by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's clarion call to U.S. allies to note the "bankrupt" Marxist-Leninist ideology of China's leader and the urge to "global hegemony" that goes with it, insisting that they would have to choose "between freedom and tyranny." (Forget which country on this planet actually claims global hegemony as its right.)

At the same time, the Pentagon deployed its aircraft carriers and other weaponry ever more threateningly in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the Pacific. The question is: What lies behind this upsurge in Trump administration China baiting? A likely answer can be found in the president's blunt statement in a July interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News that "I'm not a good loser. I don't like to lose."

The reality is that, under Donald Trump, the United States is indeed losing to China in two important spheres. As the FBI's Wray put it, "In economic and technical terms [China] is already a peer competitor of the United States... in a very different kind of [globalized] world." In other words, China is rising and the U.S. is falling. Don't just blame Trump and his cronies for that, however, as this moment has been a long time coming.

Facts speak for themselves. Nearly unscathed by the 2008-2009 global recession, China displaced Japan as the world's second largest economy in August 2010. In 2012, with $3.87 trillion worth of imports and exports, it overtook the U.S. total of $3.82 trillion, elbowing it out of a position it had held for 60 years as the number one cross-border trading nation worldwide. By the end of 2014, China's gross domestic product, as measured by purchasing power parity, was $17.6 trillion, slightly exceeding the $17.4 trillion of the United States, which had been the globe's largest economy since 1872.

In May 2015, the Chinese government released a Made in China 2025 plan aimed at rapidly developing 10 high-tech industries, including electric cars, next-generation information technology, telecommunications, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence. Other major sectors covered in the plan included agricultural technology, aerospace engineering, the development of new synthetic materials, the emerging field of biomedicine, and high-speed rail infrastructure. The plan was aimed at achieving 70% self-sufficiency in high-tech industries and a dominant position in such global markets by 2049, a century after the founding of the People's Republic of China

Semiconductors are crucial to all electronic products and, in 2014, the government's national integrated circuit industry development guidelines set a target: China was to become a global leader in semiconductors by 2030. In 2018, the local chip industry moved up from basic silicon packing and testing to higher value chip design and manufacturing. The following year, the U.S. Semiconductor Industry Association noted that, while America led the world with nearly half of global market share, China was the main threat to its position because of huge state investments in commercial manufacturing and scientific research.

By then, the U.S. had already fallen behind China in just such scientific and technological research. A study by Nanjing University's Qingnan Xie and Harvard University's Richard Freeman noted that between 2000 and 2016, China's share of global publications in the physical sciences, engineering, and math quadrupled, exceeding that of the U.S.

In 2019, for the first time since figures for patents were compiled in 1978, the U.S. failed to file for the largest number of them. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, China filed applications for 58,990 patents and the United States 57,840. In addition, for the third year in a row, the Chinese high-tech corporation Huawei Technologies Company, with 4,144 patents, was well ahead of U.S.-based Qualcomm (2,127). Among educational institutions, the University of California maintained its top rank with 470 published applications, but Tsinghua University ranked second with 265. Of the top five universities in the world, three were Chinese.

The Neck-and-Neck Race in Consumer Electronics

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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