While Brazil has not yet developed a culture of investment in innovation, education and data protection, as well as mechanisms for monitoring what other countries do in this area, the great dispute between U.S and China, outside the focus of the media happens in the field of obtaining, controlling and handling data.
In several situations, the United States has accused China of orchestrating data theft (personal information) of millions of Americans in cinematic cyber operations: 145 million data from credit bureau Equifax, 400 million data from Marriott hotel chain, 78 million from Anthem health insurance provider.
This information not only feeds the intelligence services of the country that obtained it, but also fuels sophistication in the development of Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence systems, among other areas.
Of course, China denies any cyber attacks on these companies or organizations. However, there is a clear and proven interest in obtaining this information.
The super-processing capability that quantum computing offers would enable China to have a deep understanding of critical information about millions of Americans, including their debts, earnings, assets. In possible attacks on social networks, the aggressor can obtain even more personal data, such as passwords, friendship connections, etc.
Data is not just collected through hacking actions. Most of the time, users of social networks and e-commerce, provide our data voluntarily without worrying about how a company will use it. The US believes that even in simpler applications like Tik Tok, for example, the Chinese government has the ability and interest to collect data.
China argues that, while it can, it does not, and points out that, just as it can collect data, the US also has the capacity and interest. An important difference, in the view of some specialists in the area, is the integration of Chinese companies into party control, while in the US many manage to maintain a degree of independence from eventual state interventions.
Regardless of all these possibilities, none surpasses one directly linked to the maintenance of the Chinese economic machine: intellectual property. With innovation as the state’s focus, China has become in recent years a power in technological innovation in the most diverse areas. Much of this power is due to the decentralized process of stimulating technological innovation.
The absence of a legal parameter for intellectual property means that the Chinese Communist Party has the power to distribute technological innovations among several research centers, generating variations and trends at a speed difficult to occur in the United States. All of this makes the process cheaper, leading China to “produce” innovations more quickly with quality similar to those of American and European companies, but at a much lower cost.
Data not only provides access to information that triggers the collection of sophisticated design ideas and sketches, but also information that enables an accurate consumer reading (at an individualized level). As a result, the production of anything can be thought of and offered with an unparalleled degree of detail.
The Chinese government has invested billions in a modern quantum computing research center to achieve leadership in the field by the year 2030. One name we should keep in mind is the name of Chen Gang, the mind behind the park’s design and modernization Chinese industrial/technological.
His reputation has grown so much under President Xi Jinping that Chen is expected to join the CCP Politburo in 2027. He led Beijing’s Zhongguancun advanced technology hub, being seen as one of the central pillars of the process of expanding innovation centers.
The US, on the other hand, depends on private investments from companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon. Because it is a new and complex technology, China has been focusing on quantum communications (taking a lead in this area over the US), while Americans lead the race in quantum computing.
Former President Donald Trump has set up the 22-member National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee to look at Chinese threats to quantum development and focus on specific areas that could counter Chinese advances in the future.
In the field of communication, China has managed to develop a fabulous technology via particles of information between satellites and bases on the ground. Interception of this type of communication is virtually impossible at the moment. The development of a “quantum radar”, in the final phase of production, allows China to monitor “invisible” American military aircraft, making aircraft immune to conventional radar obsolete. The same is true for detecting submarines. For all of this, the collection of data, from the simplest (a certain scientist’s friendship network, their habits) or more complex (volume of specific investments from an American agency to a research center), in addition to general information on common citizens (faces, fingerprints etc.), helps in the development of quantum facial recognition.
The Chinese government recently passed a law that limits the collection of data from the country’s private companies, arguing that society needs transparency regarding the handling of its personal data. On the other hand, you will be able to maintain your access to these same data for reasons of national security. The subjectivity of the term comes in handy, as national security is an interpretive issue.
The Chinese government’s recent actions against technology companies aiming to go public on the NYSE reveal some important strategies Beijing has in mind. The transnationality of technology companies (mainly software) offers a new risk to the CCP that does not exist in relation to manufactured goods companies. The absence of borders on virtual services outside China hinders government access to certain information, as these companies would be bound by local data protection laws. At the same time, once a Chinese company joins the NY Stock Exchange, the rules required by the SEC would override Chinese regulations on several points.
This deflates Beijing’s power over these companies, while strengthening one of the symbols of American capitalism. Aiming to strengthen the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges, Xi Jinping seeks not only to retain strategic companies within its regulations and, in turn, attract investors to Chinese exchanges that would house more and more Chinese technology companies.
Beijing fears that giant Chinese companies, which handle hundreds of millions of data daily, could consolidate increasingly independent power over the party. Tencent, for example, established in German territory as a local company, would collect millions of data that would not necessarily reach Beijing and the quantum development centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan.
This dispute is held in silence, far from the interest of a large part of the press as it is complex, unglamorous and without the visual impact that other types of conflicts generate. In any case, the future of US-China relations will be one of fiercer in this competition.