My way or no way

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: December 05, 2018 21:01:52

That technology becomes competitive is a given. That competition prevails in trade and contracts should be so. Yet for the umpteenth time Chinese technology has been shut out of competition in deploying 5G telephony - this time in New Zealand. This follows similar action by the United Kingdom and Australia. The palpable excuse is 'national security' and raises more questions than answers. If truly drawn out, the technology business shouldn't be competitive at all. China has been rebuffed several times from port leases on similar grounds. One wonders what the US reaction would have been to similar discrimination.

Technology transfer is one of the most sought-after aspects of trade deals and in an increasingly connected and integrated technological world, these transfers do come with risks. Mere mechanical connectivity is easier to solve but not so with hi-tech cellphone technology or port operations. Yet the questions relating to national security aren't asked when it comes to using sophisticated western technology. The electoral system ruled by voter ID processes spring to mind and usage of finger printing furthers the fact that individual privacy has gone for a toss.

In military cooperation technology transfer comes with a needs analysis and thereby handing over of critical and sensitive information. Transit trade involves more than just mapping and charting, the invariable ability to scour horizons for vital hydrocarbons are secrets no longer. Google is a classic example where personal privacy has gone to the dogs and somehow no one connects the dots between such information and so-called sacred secrets.

The occasional surprise awaits us as well. The inability to fully identify North Korea's nuclear installations in spite of the sophistication of surveillance is baffling when, decades ago, the non-existent weapons of mass destruction were so clearly identified moving around in Iraq.

The Chinese are trading sanction blows with the United States that will hurt both economies. The difference is that China has spread its tentacles deeply enough to live with alternative, if less viable trade. The US remains expensive both as an attractive export source and an import one. China has moved on from a fake manufacturer to a cheap production source. Part of it has to do with purchasing power and personal affluence of the general system. In between, the state machinery continues to sit on the largest chunk of US currency available in the world.

Sooner rather than later China will react to these rebuffs. It is too ambitious a nation to take things lying down, for too long.



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