IBM, China, and technology

A US group has published a report claiming IBM has sold sensitive technology to China. Like many western companies, IBM has been motivated by a desire to gain wider access to the growing market in China.

The analysis by Defense Group Inc. says:

Over the past two years, IBM has engaged in a series of transactions with Chinese companies (including those with deep ties to the Chinese government and military) to support domestic Chinese development of high performance computing components, among other technologies. Now that Chinese companies
have the blueprints to various IBM technologies, IBM is working with Chinese firms to implement and commercialize solutions, enabling them to build upon and develop new products that close the technological gap with the United States.
By providing the Chinese with the means to perfect and innovate these sensitive, high-level technologies that enhance Chinese military capabilities and monitor Chinese citizens, IBM is endangering the national and economic security of the United States, risking the cybersecurity of their customers globally, and
undermining decades of U.S. non-proliferation policies regarding high-performance computing.

Video defending Communist Party rule in China

This video is a pretty clear sign that Xi Jinping’s would establish himself as a sort of “supreme leader” in the tradition of Mao and warlords of past in China, although within a much more modern framework. There is a strong element of equivalence between Xi and Barack Obama and David Cameron. You can debate all you like whether it’s false equivalence – but the intention of the message is crystal clear. It intends to send the message that:

1) Xi is a leader as legitimate as Barack Obama and David Cameron.

2) China, under the Communist Party, is as legitimate as Representative Democracies.

3) The video points out the vast sums of money needed to become president in the US. This should be viewed in comparison to the embarrassing stories of the enrichment of China’s leadership through their privileged positions. The video says in effect: “China isn’t the only corrupt political system.”

4) It’s hilariously vague in describing the challenges a leader like Xi faces on his rise to the top. But it does emphasize the egalitarian backgrounds of future leaders in China – getting in touch with Communist roots here.

5) The final line sums up the basic thrust of the video. After drawing a parallel between China and Western democracies, the video concludes: “As long as the people are satisfied and the country develops and progresses as a result – it’s working.”

6) The appetite for these kinds of videos by China’s leaders, China’s netizens and the outside would will tell us if this kind of video, like the China Dream video, will become a feature of China’s propaganda efforts. If they do, short three minute videos could become a kind of atomized venue for if not winning hearts and minds, legitimizing the Chinese state. And this is where it gets interesting.

7) Right now there are a lot of core economic interests shared between the US and China (trade). But on the margin, China and the US’s interests are diverging. In the US, American policymakers will come under increasing pressure to explain why the US is forced to buy goods from a country that is also confronting the US Navy, or stealing US technology, or trying to embarrass the US diplomatically. In China, the age-old battle for legitimacy by the CPC continues. Richer, more educated Chinese netizens will tire of their role as online lynch mob targeting the excesses of the state, and will begin asking why they can’t have a government that is a reflection of the will of the people.

Figure out what the ideology sits best atop the status quo in China, and I would wager, we will see it emerge as a theme, as a catchphrase, as a meme in videos to come. And then it could crystallize into part of the Chinese position towards themselves and the world.