Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

The China Conundrum and its implications for international cyber-security – 9

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on April 8, 2011

This is my ninth posting to date in a series on China (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, postings 69, 71, 72 and 76 through 79 and 82 for parts 1-8) and in a real sense this is the posting this series has been leading up to. I have been writing about challenges and opportunities that China faces, and about its approaches to dealing with them. Now my goal is to step back and look at this in a larger, more global context. I have been writing this series as an ongoing collection of blog postings so my priority has not always been on polished presentation – I reread this series to date yesterday evening and yes, it does read like a blog with some rough edges. But I will attempt to write this installment with more care as it seeks to address what I see as a defining issue for the 21st century, and with much wider implications than could be applied to just China.

One of the most compelling and demanding consequences to the everywhere and all the time of our emerging ubiquitous computing and communications is that people everywhere are becoming empowered as participants on the larger and even global stage. We are rapidly approaching a state where people everywhere will be able to tap into the multitude of voices of the global community, adding their own. And with the breakdown of parochial and nationalistic perspectives that this brings and the blurring of cultural and national boundaries as meaningful distinctions in daily lives, this is going to have a tremendous impact on national policies. This will shape and transform what is viewed as acceptable, constructive and effective in the way governments behave, and both in their inward and national context and as they reach outward to the world.

Unpolished or not, and with room for improvement acknowledged, I did touch on a number of issues that relate to how China’s government and its businesses and industries function and both within their country and with regards to the rest of the world. I have written repeatedly of what I see as instabilities in their system and perhaps the truest litmus test as to the accuracy of this claim will be in the long term stability and functionality of their approaches taken when facing outward.

China currently has the second largest economy in the world and that is not going to change, and certainly through the foreseeable future. But I find myself asking a simple, basic question as I mentally review the postings I have added to this series and to this blog as a whole, and the news and other reports I have been reading on this.

• Do China’s policies and practices, and both with regard to their own people and internal economy and as they function on a global basis, build bridges or do they create precedents that would stymie future opportunities?

If China is viewed as taking a predatory approach in its business and other dealings, that creates long term problems for them and limits their long term potential. If China fails to address its internal disconnects that would lead to its having so vigorous an internal black market and gray economy that will too, and if it simply seeks to address this by squeezing harder from the center that effort will fail.

Ultimately, economic reform without social or political reform cannot be sustained, and the cracks and instabilities that I have at least touched upon in this series simply point to the consequences of attempts to prove otherwise.

I have written this series with China as a working example, but many of the same basic issues could be applied elsewhere as well – if not in specific detail then in general conclusion. Narrow, parochial national bias and policies that would seem to promote them by creating inequity with trading partners can only sow distrust and cut off opportunity. Striving to hold on to all authority and to control all information cannot and will not work. New approaches are needed and are becoming progressively more compelling as required as this 21st century proceeds. I find myself thinking of current unrest in the Middle East and across North Africa as I write this (e.g. see China, Egypt and State Control of Cyberspace and China, Egypt and State Control of Cyberspace – the China response.) And my postings on this are already substantially out of date and especially where the still growing turmoil in places like Libya are concerned.

This addresses an area of opportunity and challenge where no nations can simply rest on their laurels with expectation that they are doing everything right, or even necessarily in the right direction. The nature of nation states will be very different by the end of the 21st century than they are now, still early in it.

I may or may not add a tenth installment to this series but I am certain to pick up this set of issues in future blog postings.

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