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December 18, 2019

Responding To: Final Insights from the U.S.-China Research Group on E-Commerce and Mobile Technology

Define the Way to Compete

Huang Can

In the near future, the U.S.-China relationship in terms of technology will have components of collaboration and competition. I think that the two countries should collaborate more because there will be societal challenges that the two countries can work together to address, for example, climate change and prevention of pandemic. For those issues, the two countries can leverage their own resources and research capabilities to work on them, to collaborate. That will enhance welfare for the whole world. In terms of the competition, I think that we can all say it does exist, especially in a lot of emerging technologies. But I hope that the two countries can define their rules about how they compete, and the competition will be beneficial for both countries, to the firms and industries of both countries. That will minimize the negative impacts on the firms and industries in both countries. And I think that’s uncharted territory for the relationship of the two countries because previously, China was more in the catching-up phase, catching up status, and Chinese companies were not in the technology frontiers. But as many and more and more Chinese companies move up to the technology frontier, you will see more competition with American companies. And I think the two countries need to define the rules and define the way they compete. Certain actions probably shouldn’t be encouraged, and that will be very important for the bilateral relationship between the two countries, and that’s why I hope the competition will be a productive enhancing competition, and not negatively and wrestling with each other.

In terms of collaborations, I think there are obstacles right now. Comparing with the past, there were also obstacles mentioned, like IPs (intellectual properties), mechanism, bureaucracy in terms of inhibiting the effective collaborations. But I think the new obstacles are even more important. The overall atmosphere between the two countries now is strongly declining to competition, to geopolitical struggle, to rivalry. And then I think that will prohibit effective collaboration. That will be more difficult to really engage in effective collaboration. I really want the two countries to avoid this Thucydides’ Trap that becomes a power struggle between the No. 1 and No. 2 countries in the world. I hope the two countries will find the method to solve this, and at least collaborate on important topics for the future.

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