China, Leverage, and Values – Stratechery by Ben Thompson:
On the other hand, for all of the praise that is heaped on Chinese service companies like Tencent for their innovation, the fact that everything on Tencent is monitored and censored is chilling, particularly when people disappear. The possibilities of a central government creating the conditions for, say, self-driving cars or some other top-down application of technology is appealing, but turning a city into a prison through surveillance is terrifying. And while it is tempting to fantasize about removing “fake news” and hateful content with an iron fist, it is a step down the road to removing everything that is objectionable to an unaccountable authority with little more than an adjustment to a configuration file.
This is the true war when it comes to technology: censorship versus openness, control versus creativity, and centralization versus competition. These are, of course, connected: China’s censorship is about control facilitated by centralization. That, though, should not only give Western tech companies and investors pause about China generally, but should also led to serious introspection about the appropriate policies towards our own tech industry. Openness, creativity, and competition are just as related as their counterparts, and infringement on any one of them should be taken as a threat to all three.
Ben does a great job of nailing the crux of the issue for this so-called China/USA trade war.
IMHO too much praise is given to Chinese companies for their success in China, which essentially has zero outside competition. We know why they do this, but to purport that their products are the best or the right way to do it is too simplistic for my liking.
China wants to control everything, so they do this via Chinese companies and how they operate. Excellent for China – not great for outside China.
At the core is censorship for one and human rights. China has a pretty bad record for both, but I am not saying other countries are not guilty as well.
Moreover, the Huawei stuff is just the canary in the coal mine and a bargaining chip to some extent. However, I do think countries need to be vigilant and realize the full extent of what Chinese tech could enable – both the good and the bad.