Tribune. The Chinese government is seeing a very noisy opponent leave with Donald Trump. But Beijing knows that its real problem will remain: the policy of technological containment led by Washington, the result of a longer-term and more discreet evolution, passed a decisive course in 2020.
The trade war against China, launched in 2018 by the outgoing president of the United States, is likely to subside with his successor. But it remained a marginal problem for the Chinese authorities: it was ineffective, and even enabled them to re-mobilize the troops by demonstrating the validity of their policy of national economic independence.
Beijing’s far more concern is that the much more decisive technological war is likely to continue. It is in fact not the result of a movement of humor or of a man’s decision. It began long before Donald Trump: its first important episode can be dated from the first veto on an acquisition of the Chinese group Huawei, in 2008; above all, it is the result of strategic thinking by the American administration.
Its objective is to stem the accelerated technological emergence of China. It became an emergency in the eyes of Washington in 2015, when Xi Jinping’s China, by publishing its “Made in China 2025” plan, no longer concealed its ambitions.
Five years later, in 2020, this strategy has found its smallest means – it is measured in nanometers – but also the most efficient: semiconductors are at the heart of all of China’s technology projects. From autonomous vehicles to smart electricity grids, including the factory of the future that must manufacture them and the telecommunications equipment that must operate them, these electronic components are essential. And they are also the Achilles heel of Chinese industry, which consumes five times more than it produces.
The American exploitation of this weakness was initially focused on Huawei, the world’s leading telecommunications equipment manufacturer, which has become in a few years the symbol of Chinese technological progress as a pioneer of 5G. It was done in two stages.
The first, registered in 2019 in the control of sales of American semiconductors to the Chinese group, proved to be relatively ineffective. Huawei has indeed demonstrated an unexpectedly rapid response capacity, with the design of its own replacement components.
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