March 18, 2021 - 6:00pm

Does China’s technological prowess makes it a more “formidable foe” than the USSR ever was? Following a year of on-off lockdowns across the West, the world is now waking up to the country’s lofty position in the post-pandemic order. Last year, China’s was the only major economy to grow; its lunar mission was a success; its naval fleet continued to expand; and it emerged triumphant from trade negotiations with the Trump White House. On next generation technologies like quantum computing and 5G, it is a world leader.

No wonder, then, that there is talk of a ‘New Cold War’.

However, as the academic Michael Kwet points out in Roar magazine, this is a misleading picture. America remains dominant. “A closer look at the tech ecosystem”, he writes, “shows that US corporations are overwhelmingly dominant in the global economy.” Kwet looks at the work of the economist Sean Starrs:

As of 2013, [US transnationals] dominated in terms of profit shares in 18 of the top 25 sectors… For IT Software & Services, US profit share is 76 percent versus China’s 10 percent; for Technology Hardware & Equipment, it is 63 percent for the US versus 6 percent for China, and for Electronics, it is 43 and 10 percent, respectively. Other countries, such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, often fare better than China in these categories as well.
- Michael Kwet, Roar Magazine

Kwet argues that it’s a mistake to think that the United States and China are equal competitors when it comes to technological supremacy:

China’s tech industry is dominant inside China, save a handful of major products and services, such as 5G (Huawei), CCTV cameras (Hikvision, Dahua) and social media (TikTok), which also hold large market shares abroad. China also has substantial investments in some foreign tech firms, but this hardly suggests a genuine threat to the dominance of the US, which has a much larger share of foreign investments as well.
- Michael Kwet, Roar Magazine

Outside of China or America, if you are using a computer, there’s a good chance that the software, hardware and network connectivity of the device you’re using is owned or was created by an American company:

The US leads in the categories of search engines (Google); web browsers (Google Chrome, Apple Safari); smartphone and tablet operating systems (Google Android, Apple iOS); desktop and laptop operating systems (Microsoft Windows, macOS); office software (Microsoft Office, Google G Suite, Apple iWork); cloud infrastructure and services (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM); social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter); transportation (Uber, Lyft); business networking (Microsoft LinkedIn); streaming entertainment (Google, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu) and online advertising (Google, Facebook) — among others.
- Michael Kwet, Roar Magazine

A combination of China’s extraordinary economic growth and signs of US stagnation (gerontocratic leadership, continuing racial strife, military disasters) may have blinded many commentators to America’s enduring strengths. The building blocks of Empire in the 21st century — fibre-optic cables, cloud server farms, elite software programmers — are controlled by a handful of mostly US-based corporations. Don’t be surprised if the ‘New Cold War’ is over before it’s even begun.