US policy of ‘technological apartheid’ could lead to a new Dark Age
Published: Jun 06, 2022 11:23 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

A New York Times article earlier this month documented how the US is attempting to defeat Russia in its "surrogate war" with Ukraine by ultimately starving it of needed technology for its military production, in particular, restricting Russia from access to semiconductors needed for most of their weapons. In the NYT article, Matthew Klein, an economics researcher who tracks the effect of the export controls, notes, "The democracies can replicate the effect of well-targeted bombing runs with the right set of sanctions precisely because the Russian military depends on imported equipment."

The modus operandi is similar to what British intellectuals H.G. Wells and Bertrand Russell, members of the exclusive Sunday meeting club, known as "The Coefficients," proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, maintaining a secret monopoly on new technologies in order to maintain the "hegemony" of the then-failing British Empire. Even at that time, it was clear to these people that the US, which had far out-stripped the British in the technological sphere, had to be brought into this policy.

The policy essentially meant that advances in technology must be a "monopoly" of the hegemonic power, and any "sharing" would only be done on conditions laid out by that power. This is the economic policy behind such US schemes as the "alliance of democracies" or the "Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity." But even the countries involved in these "select groups" are not there on an equal basis. If any of them were to deviate in any way from the will of the "hegemon," they would also be subject to the same policy. By no means would one of their "collaborators" be allowed to take the role of the leading technological power.

This policy is not simply based on the non-sharing of technologies. Other countries, on their own, may well develop the technologies from which they are being restricted, and this may very well happen in the case of Russia today. Therefore, what is required is "technology suppression" or better labeled "technological apartheid," because like the Apartheid policies practiced earlier in South Africa, the "non-friendly states" or "potential rivals" must be placed into a technological "Bantustan" situation where they cannot develop such technologies. This includes "rival countries" such as Russia and China, but it also includes all the countries of the developing world, which have never, over course of the last 50 years, been allowed to develop into industrial powers. Even areas such as aeronautics and astronautics and nuclear power have been contentious issues between the US and the Latin American countries precisely because of their technological value.

Such a policy, if consistently applied, would lead mankind into a New Dark Age. If the international division of labor and the worldwide network of production, including international supply chains, are to be broken up into several entities wholly determined by geopolitics, this will serve to undermine the present level of world. Trying to "decouple" from Russia, which contains some of the world's most important raw materials, or China, which has been the engine of production for the world economy for the last several decades, will lead to conditions of starvation and epidemic disease in countries in Africa and Asia which have become dependent on that global system.

More importantly, undermining China's Belt and Road Initiative, the only serious initiative taken over the last 50 years in dealing with the endemic problem of poverty and underdevelopment, will throw these countries into conditions of destitution similar to the Dark Ages of the 14th Century. And while the US IPEF and the Big Back Better World promise prosperity for those prepared to "worship" at the altar of US hegemony, the US has not built a railroad, anywhere, not even in the US, since the World War II. It is in no shape to industrialize Africa, if it even had the will to do so.

Unfortunately over the course of the last fifty years and in spite of the commitment of president Franklin Roosevelt to improving the conditions of life in Africa, the US has not succeeded in industrializing these countries. And the gains made by the Asian "tigers" and by the US were largely done through their own efforts and not "by the grace" of the US. In fact, under US policies during the 1970s many countries of neighboring Latin America were relegated from a state of relative prosperity to a state of total penury through manipulation of the terms of trade by the London-Wall Street banks. Without collaboration today between the major powers, the US, China, India and Russia, any policy of global development remains a chimera.

The author is a Washington political analyst and a Non-resident Fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of the Renmin University of China. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn