Grandstand. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Beijing has shown its support for Moscow. However, this proximity in speech will quickly find its limits on the ground. Because of the geopolitics of technology, China’s strategic priorities and its relationship to Europe.
Friendship “solid as a rock” [selon le ministre chinois des affaires étrangères, Wang Yi, le 7 mars] between China and Russia has been repeatedly affirmed by Beijing since the start of the invasion of Ukraine. A common ideological opposition to the West seems to ensure the emergence of a bloc hostile to the democratic model, which would herald a reconfiguration of the world order. Beyond the rhetoric, this vision actually corresponds to Russia’s projects; but it is very far from those of China.
The latter’s strategic priority, affirmed in 2015 in the Made in China 2025 project and unchanged since, is to become by 2049 (one hundredth anniversary of the People’s Republic) the world’s leading technological power, the only lasting guarantee of power and stability.
Severe technological delay
However, if China is engaged in a huge modernization effort and is making constant progress, it still needs foreign cooperation to catch up with a heavy delay in technological development attributable to its recent history (and in particular to the lost decade of the Cultural Revolution , at the turn of the 1970s).
It is not only a question of Chinese companies buying the components that they still lack to finalize many advanced technology products. But to engage in projects with foreign partners accompanied by the acquisition of know-how, enabling them to progress towards the objective of national technological independence.
In this strategy, the Chinese authorities have more or less resigned themselves to no longer relying on the United States since the turning point of 2019 (and the ban on sales of any product using American technologies to Huawei, the flagship of Chinese industry , followed by many other Chinese companies since). And the main alternative for Chinese companies (the other tech heavyweights Japan and South Korea being very aligned with Washington) is in European companies.
The latest figures available on Chinese investments abroad – which reflect part of this technological cooperation – confirm this: while in 2021, after the collapse linked to the crisis due to covid, they continued to decline in the States. United States (barely exceeding 1 billion dollars), they rebounded strongly in Europe, reaching twelve times the amounts recorded in the United States over the year.
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