Sovereignty and the Limits of Globalisation and Technology
I have been following the Russell Berman and Peter Thiel class at Stanford with a collection of Londoners who have all come together fortnightly to follow the readings.
Globalisation; Prophecy versus History.
- Francis Fukayama; The End of History? (1989)
- Kishore Mahbubani; Has the West Lost it? (2018)
- Stephen R. Platt; How Britains First Mission to China Went Wrong (2018)
- Norman Angell; The Great Illusion (1909)
The group begun the conversation in week one trying to best understand what Thiel saw as reoccurring themes in these texts. Some of the points raised were as follows:
- What is the importance of globalisation?
- Is democracy still the best way?
- Themes developed as east v west
Our group was predominantly white males who all worked in technology in some way. Mostly born or educated in the west and pro democracy and pro capitalism. That being said, there were a couple of outliers which was great to have insights from them, one gentleman who grew up Dhaka, Bangladesh before receiving a scholarship to study in the UK.
Bringing China into the WTO in 2001 was always going to disrupt manufacturing industry in the west by introducing 800m new workers to the economy. This was not anticipated on by the west and in turn has caused tensions in western political systems as a result nearly 2 decades later.
The Made in China 2025 is causing a stir and their investments in England (Barclays and BP (Minorities)), Greece (Port Piraeus), and Africa (Addis Ababa Airport) are examples that were given as being an issue with some democratic states. The points were made that should these have been western investors making these acquisitions it would not be seen as newsworthy.
Does the world need a dominant power today as much as it needed one in 1945? Who will be the overarching body who is responsible for security for example? China has been in negative press for spying (Huawei) and this is a concern for the west should they want to push their state controlled media into western markets, adoption of WeChat for example.
Stephen R Platts piece gives great insight to how two opposing cultures clash when there is no clear superior in a deal or negotiation. This piece covers the engagement Britain has in trading with China prior to the Opium Wars.
The west feels that democracy has not delivered in recent years, Brexit/Trump being key indicators of this — or maybe it has, we will soon find out. China is showing good signs of adaptation to global democracy in its international investment through the Belt and Road Scheme.
How has technology changed the way we look at democracy (additional readings on this would be Jamie Susskind, Future Politics). The digitisation has caused concerns in recent years with Cambridge Analytica Scandal with Facebook. Scare mongering pushing 2 sides further apart in Brexit vote and Trump election.
West versus East
How the US is playing out its “Trade War” with China is a key indicator of what tension is continuing to build on the us v them debate. The Great Illusion, written in 1909 gave strong arguments for why war is not financially beneficial for either side, yet WW1 began 5 years later. Will we see increased military activity even though we know full well that this is not a beneficial process? What does this look like when China and India are the worlds 2 biggest economies and their military presence outweighs that of the US?
Technology, Banning Huawei and other Chinese products could be as increased action of said “Trade War” as the technology race continues to be hotly contested between US and China. I believe we cover this in more detail in future chapters with Kai Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers. Will china win this race with its large troves of data to built more complex AI machines?
I will aim to document more notes over the coming weeks.