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In Davos, spectre of a tech cold war raise its ugly head

AFP
Davos
China and the United States may have laid down their arms for now in a trade truce, but their technological rivalry is still raging, raising the spectre of a high tech cold war.
The coming battle played out this week in the corridors of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where Chinese executives rubbed shoulders with Silicon Valley supremos, and US diplomats lobbied hard to keep companies from embracing Made in China for their tech revolution.
At the centre of this cold war 2.0 is Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant whose 5G technology is key to delivering artificial intelligence (AI) and the next generation of computing.
Despite the idyllic winter setting, the tensions over Huawei between Beijing and Washington couldn’t be higher.
Huawei has been banned from the United States, which insists on the risk of Chinese espionage and implores its European allies to do the same as the company rolls out deals in major emerging markets led by Brazil and India.
Making matters personal, company founder Ren Zhengfei, a Davos star this year, came to the snowy resort just as his daughter, the company’s chief financial officer, was being grilled in Canada for extradition to the US where she is wanted on charges of fraud and breaking US sanctions against Iran.
“A world divided? I don’t believe it,” Ren told to an audience of CEOs and top executives, avoiding all controversy.
But experts assessing this new battleground warn the world is entering a digital schism.
“There is a competition for the predominance globally on digital questions. Huawei is a symbol of that but it runs much deeper,” Carlos Pascual, a former US diplomat and vice-president of IHS Markit, told AFP.
For Pascual, cyber-conflicts and “battles of influence” are paving the way for “a major Sino-American confrontation”.
The confrontation ratcheted up in 2015 when Beijing adopted the “Made in China 2025” programme to boost its technologies, along with a massive infrastructure investment plan for the “Silk Roads” to Asia, Europe and Africa.

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