The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered important debates about technological and industrial sovereignty in Europe. The lack of essential equipment such as respiratory devices and protective gear underscored the weaknesses of supply chains largely dependent on Chinese producers.
Beijing’s political mismanagement of the crisis and a more general lack of trust in the regime compounded this supply problem. While a lack of supplies in certain European states can also be explained by bad planning, China quickly became something of a scapegoat for a general discontent with the lack of stocks and slow replenishing times.
Chinese technology has faced increased scrutiny and criticism since 2019 and Chinese firms have historically been accused of duplicating western technology without respecting intellectual propriety laws. This perception leads to a global assumption of unfairness when speaking about trade with China. Most recently, the US government has advocated a strong position against Chinese technologies for 5G networks, arguing that the main Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE are directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and thereby represent a potential threat when managing sensitive data.
Even if these two issues are not directly correlated, they are feeding a narrative of strong mistrust and criticism of China, underscoring the need for increased control over supply chains to ensure a degree of technological independence. This is all the more so given the important uses of technology to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, as digital tools have allowed societies to maintain basic functions even during periods of closure and social distancing.
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This blog first appeared on the IAI site.
Author: Jean-Pierre Darnis, IAI.
Image courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr.
The views are those of the author and not necessarily those of ETTG.