Oct 14, 2019

Steven Weber on the Decaying Tech Ties Between U.S. and China

From National Journal

Fight Over Censorship, Human Rights Further Frays Tech Ties Between U.S. and China

By Brendan Bordelon

Concerns regarding Beijing's censorship and human rights record continue to disrupt tech-industry ties between the U.S. and China. Both the U.S. and Chinese governments, as well as American tech firms, have taken actions to place restrictions on the relationship between the two tech industries.

In response to various entities' involvement in Beijing's current campaign to repress the Muslim population in western China, the Commerce Department has decided to place 28 Chinese entities on its “Entity List.” This effectively blacklists these companies from doing business with U.S. partners; several of them rely largely on U.S.-made computer chips.

At the same time, the struggle over the perceived adoption of Beijing's censorship regime by Chinese and U.S. tech companies incensed Washington and the tech industry. Apple took down an app allowing protestors in Hong Kong to monitor police activity, while Google removed a game allowing users to role-play as Hong Kong protestors.

“The blind spot was that many in the tech sector treated transnational supply chains as a fact of nature rather than a political-economic choice,” said Steven Weber, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information.

Washington, said Weber, “would prefer our economic and technological relationship with China to look more like it did with the Soviet Union — very low levels of interdependence.”

“Many here in [Silicon] Valley thought that was impossible, that history couldn’t be reversed,” he said. “But we will see how far [Washington] can take it.”


Steven Weber is a professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information and Faculty Director of the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity.

Last updated:

June 12, 2020