There is a “little” technology cold war in place between US and China, especially after that Bloomberg has unveiled that 30 US corporations (Amazon and Apple included) were spied
through microchips nested on the motherboards of servers assembled in China. Here you have a good recap
of how China has been wielding power over Western corporations, to the point of becoming a national security threat, being a key investor in the Silicon Valley and do annoying things like buying very important IP rights (the formula for the white pigment that goes into Oreo stuffing? Chinese). The big takeaway:
In other words, restructuring the Western corporate commons so it cannot be exploited by bad actors is one of the key national security challenges of our era. Either way, it’s clear that the era of strong private corporate power is over. (…) The only question is whether the public power that assumes control of Western corporations, and thus Western society, is American or Chinese.
- Chinese actors in Europe are usually state-backed firms and investment funds, which, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, represented 63% of deals by value in the decade to 2018.
- Particular focuses have been energy, chemicals and infrastructure.
- Chinese outfits now own most or all of Syngenta, a big Swiss pesticide producer; the Port of Piraeus, Greece’s biggest; and Hinkley Point C, a British nuclear power station. Airports like London’s Heathrow, Frankfurt Hahn and Toulouse have sizeable Chinese ownership. So do PSA Group, maker of Peugeot and Citroën cars, and Pirelli, the Italian tyremaker.
So where China once considered the EU a prospective partner and even a model in some areas, now it approaches Europe with less respect—as a sort of supermarket of opportunities to extract benefits that can help it rise, neutralise opposition to its foreign policy and keep the West from acting as one against it.
OK, but what makes the Chinese such good players? Venture capitalist and ex Google China Head Kai-Fu Lee argues that WeChat laid the groundwork
for AI strength in China:
WeChat basically helps many startups get going. They became the entry point for shared bicycles, shared vehicles, take out orders, and for paying loans, borrowing money, paying taxes and paying utilities. Everything was done there. It became a hub. It changed users’ habits to depend more on mobile computing and depositing more of their data, therefore enabling WeChat and other companies to be a part of this AI movement.
Simply put, Chinese payment giants are giant. Alipay and WeChat pay handled each more payments in a single month
this year than PayPal’s $451 billion for the whole of 2017.