David P. Goldman, economist, author, and Asia Times columnist whose pen name is “Spengler,” talked to Breitbart News Tonight co-hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak Thursday, warning of threats to America’s global position via China’s ascendance in science and technology.
Goldman described China’s One Belt One Road project as placing the one-party state at the center of an increasingly prosperous economic region that is becoming more unified through digital and physical means. China’s increasing centrality to emerging Asian economies, he continued, may facilitate its rise to global economic preeminence.
“Quietly, the rest of Asia, particularly Japan, is signing on to this Chinese [One Belt One Road] program, which is a trillion dollar budget to put in broadband, high-speed rail, all kinds of other infrastructure throughout Asia,” explained Goldman. “Like anything the Chinese do, it’s going to have mixed results. They’re not supermen. They make a lot of mistakes, but one of the most remarkable things that’s happening is that broadband and electronic commerce — the Chinese answer to Amazon, Alibaba, Jack Ma’s firm — is doing things which are transforming life in what used to be developing countries and bringing a couple of billion people into the modern world in a single generation, and it will have stunning economic effects and catapult China into, possibly, the leading position in the world economy. It’s an enormous challenge to us.”
Goldman provided examples of China’s ascendance in science and technology relative to the U.S.
“What I’m concerned about is the fact that China is testing a railgun mounted on a navy ship before the United States is and that China has the biggest quantum computing facility in the world about to open,” said Goldman. “It probably has more advanced research in quantum communications than we have, and they’re graduating twice as many doctorates in STEM fields than we are. That’s what really frightens me.”
Goldman contrasted the status of airport and railway infrastructure between the U.S. and China. “Just stepping off a plane in Asia where all the airports are new, all the trains are fast, and all the escalators work; you get into JFK airport, it’s like going into a third world country. The people movers are busted. The escalators are busted. This morning I got to work on the brand new second avenue subway stop, which is the most expensive stretch of subway track in history; the escalator is broken. It’s frightening.”
Goldman recommended a Reagan-style strategy — via state funding of research and development — to maintain America’s global scientific and technological edge.
“Back in the Reagan administration … the United States spent about one percent to one and a quarter percent of GDP on basic fundamental scientific research,” recalled Goldman. “That’s the military stuff. Now, it’s about half that level. The one thing we’re better at doing than the Chinese is innovating. No question, we’re better. It doesn’t mean the Chinese can’t do it. It’s just that’s our advantage. It’s a tortoise and hare situation. If we throw resources into the frontiers of science and figure out how to knock missiles out of the sky, how to do quantum computing, how to trace Mr. Putin’s underwater drones with nuclear tips in the ocean — really tough problems and crack the — we’ll create new industries that nobody has dreamed of, and we’ll leapfrog the Chinese the way we leapfrogged the Russian empire during the 1980s. I think that’s the key to it.”
Goldman assessed China’s news scientific and technological developments as a greater threat to America’s global status than Chinese theft of American intellectual property.
[The Chinese] are developing a lot of their own science and technology themselves now,” stated Goldman. “A dozen years ago, Huawei … the single biggest telecom equipment producer in the world; they were caught with code from Cisco, which literally had the bugs in it. They basically stole the whole thing. Now Huawei spends as much on R&D as Microsoft or Google. They have bankrupted their competitors and hired all their engineers. Their biggest R&D centers aren’t in China; they’re in Ireland and Italy. I’m much more worried about what they’re doing going forward developing new stuff that we may not have than the old stuff that is stolen.”
Mansour recounted Herb London’s description of Silicon Valley’s focus on social media services while China focuses on growing dominance in STEM fields.
“We’re geeks in a new Roman Empire,” Goldman lamented.
Goldman framed China’s modern instruments of social control as Orwellian tools that Joseph Stalin would have admired.
“This is stuff Stalin couldn’t have imagined,” Goldman considered. “In China, they know where your smartphone is all the time, and they cross-check that against facial recognition cameras that they have every couple of hundred yards in cities. They check it against all of your social media postings, your online purchases. They have a database running in real time knowing where everybody is and what everybody is doing that Stalin couldn’t have imagined.”
Goldman lamented what he described as the unlikelihood of political liberalization in China.
“From the standpoint of delivering improvements in the basic conditions of life, the Chinese Communist party has done a pretty good job,” deduced Goldman. “And as long as it can continue to do so, the near-term prospects of regime change in China are about zero. I’m sorry to say that. I wish there was a way to change that, but I don’t think it’s a realistic assessment to say we can do something to make the Chinese government better than it is or do something that it doesn’t want to do.”
“I think we should be very scared about China, but the question is, realistically, ‘What can we do to counter them?'” pondered Goldman. “We don’t want to throw them into chaos. That would mean war and depression and all kinds of terrible things. We want China to be secure but a lot weaker than we are, and I think that means doing what the Reagan administration did: going for breakthroughs in military technology that will establish American superiority in a way that nobody can doubt. That’s exactly what we haven’t done. Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve gotten lazy. We cut federal R&D. The great national labs are shadows of themselves. Big corporations like RCA and GE and IBM used to have big corporate labs that got funding from the Defense Department and built all this stuff that won the Cold War. They’re gone.”
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