Risk of rising McCarthyism warned amid China-US spat
China’s businesspeople, researchers, scholars say they ‘feel the chill’ in US
Published: Dec 13, 2018 10:43 PM

Photo: VCG

Growing China-US tensions have affected technology cooperation as Chinese scientists and researchers in cutting-edged sectors such as big data and artificial intelligence have seen rising obstacles in working with US counterparts this year.

Tensions have intensified after Canada announced the detention of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the US.

This move is believed to be part of the US' intentions of dampening Chinese companies and investment, which aroused worries that McCarthyism is back in Washington.

"Some open-sourced platforms developed by American firms, such as in the machine learning algorithm sector, have started to limit access or charge fees for tapping into those platforms," a senior scientist in a Shenzhen-based AI company, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Some Chinese scientists were denied visas this year when they planned to attend academic meetings in the US, and the US' cautious attitude toward Chinese engineers has become more obvious," he said.

The Chinese academic community has felt the chill in relations since the beginning of this year, and the recent arrest of Meng has escalated conflict between the US and China. Some industry representatives even deemed the arrest as a long-term plan by the US to curb China's rise in high technology.

Meanwhile, the effects of the tension have also expanded to business. Hong Kong political risk consultancy SVA said they noticed a remarkable increase in inquiries from US-based companies about potential problems of traveling to China after Meng's detention for fear of China's retaliation, the Japan-based Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday.

A Hong Kong-based financial technology company also moved two investor meetings from Shanghai to Manila to avoid being affected by Meng's case in consideration of its US co-founder, according to the Nikkei report.

The Trump administration has been restricting visas for the Chinese academic community studying in sensitive research fields to one year since June 11, reflecting its efforts to stop alleged intellectual property theft and hinder China's push for technological supremacy, the New York Times reported in July.

"The consensus of curbing China's influence has been forged inside the US government, and Chinese companies should be well prepared for confrontation in the long term," Sun Qingkai, partner of the major Chinese AI firm CloudWalk, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Sun's remarks are echoed by the tendency of Americans to habitually doubt anything related to China, particularly to Huawei at this moment.

The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, released a report in October 2017 on safe cities. The report, supported by Huawei, speaks highly of a new policing technology implemented in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and the Chinese city of Lijiang but failed to mention that the technology was provided by Huawei.

An opinion piece of The Washington Post published on December 7 listed financial support from Huawei to Brookings and interactions between the writer of the report, Darrell M. West, who is also Brookings vice president, and Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.

It then said that such relationship raises doubts over West's scholarship practices and represents "a worrying example of China's influence on one of America's leading think tanks" without providing any hard evidence.

China's cooperation with other countries was also negatively affected, especially those in high-tech sectors. An example is the Japanese government's recent ban on Huawei and ZTE from official contracts. The move followed an earlier warning from the US about security risks involved in using Chinese-made equipment, Washington Post reported on Monday.

McCarthyism warning

The current US strategy of blaming China for its own domestic economic and social problems reflects the country's anxiety and myopia facing these problems, which would only worsen the situation, Zha Xiaogang, a research fellow at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Zha warned that although it seems impossible for the US to return to the McCarthy-era "red scare," when the anti-communism campaign penetrated all aspects of US society, such risks remain if the situation continues to escalate.

"There is already a dire ripple effect from the US-China trade war, which will hurt the US itself and global technology collaboration," said the Shenzhen-based senior scientist.

However, technology companies have been urging more cooperation instead of confrontation, which would hurt global advancement in this sector.

Major tech giants such as US firms Google and Apple, and China's Huawei have highlighted the importance of global collaboration, which will be the driving force for technology advancement.

Google Vice President Jay Yagnik told the Global Times in an earlier interview in September that technology has been a greater "uniter" globally from a historical view. Instead of thinking about competition, companies should think about it in terms of bringing the world together and taking society to the next level.

It is in everyone's best interest that the US and China reach an agreement on trade and future intellectual property and technology collaboration, Chris Dong, global research director at International Data Corporation, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"A more open market with less government intervention, and with mutual respect and reciprocity, will benefit not only a healthier US and China trade relationship, but also the talent and knowledge exchanges," Dong said.