Tribune. In the past, sovereignty was understood as a geographic and military concept in which dependence and coercion were exercised by means of military might. Most recently, the Covid-19 revealed our dependence on China for masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). President Trump has shown how American technology and payment systems can be used for military purposes. Therefore, technological sovereignty has become a key issue in the current decade.
If Vice-Admiral Eugene H. Black III, commander of the 6e American fleet, formulated a request to the Prime Minister while informing him that he has positioned several of his ships in the English Channel, the majority of the British would disagree with this interpretation of the “special relationship”.
Yet when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Prime Minister to stop using 5G hardware produced by Huawei, implying that if he didn’t comply, the United States would stop sharing its intelligence with the United Kingdom, stressing at the same time that the United States controls the City’s payment infrastructure and that American software is essential for the functioning of British electronic chips, this did not give rise to any public protest, in despite the fact that after a thorough investigation the intelligence agency GCHQ concluded that there was no risk in using Huawei hardware in non-sensitive components of the 5G infrastructure.
The coercion is however just as blatant as a demonstration of military force, but the technological power is less visible in the eyes of the public than an American aircraft carrier anchored in the estuary of the Thames.
So far no one had worried about the UK’s dependence on other nations because supply chains were seen as secure, and the US as a reliable ally. These two convictions are now called into question.
In reality any country or group of countries must now ask itself three questions: Do we have the essential technologies? If not, do we have access to these technologies through independent countries? If again this is not the case, do we have guaranteed, free and long-term (more than five years) access to these technologies through monopoly or oligopolistic suppliers from a particular country (usually? the United States or China)?
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