The tech cold war is hotting up
科技冷战升温

【双语】科技板块分裂 Techtonic plates-书迷号 shumihao.com

OVER THE past few years countless predictions have been made that the global technology industry will suffer a painful rupture because of tensions between America and China. Real damage has been surprisingly hard to spot. Last year Apple made over $100m of sales a day in China, while Huawei reported record revenues despite America’s campaign to cripple it. Investors have piled into tech companies’ shares, buoyed by the prospect of new technologies such as 5G and a pandemic that is forcing billions of customers to spend more time and money online. Judged by sales, profits and shareholder returns, it has been a golden era for American and Chinese tech. The industry now has a colossal market capitalisation of $20trn and accounts for a quarter of the world’s stockmarket value.

过去这几年,鉴于中美之间的紧张关系,无数预测都认为全球科技行业将会出现痛苦的分裂。但实质性的损害却出奇地难以察觉。去年,苹果在中国的日销售额超过一亿美元,而华为尽管受到美国的打压,收入也仍创下新高。受5G等新技术前景的提振,加上一场疫情迫使数十亿客户在网上花费更多时间和金钱,投资者蜂拥买进科技公司的股票。从销售额、利润和股东回报来看,这是美国和中国科技行业的黄金时期。该行业如今拥有20万亿美元的庞大市值,占全球股市价值的四分之一。

Yet if you examine the events of the past two weeks you can sense the split that is about to come. On July 6th Mike Pompeo, America’s secretary of state, said that the administration was considering banning TikTok, a Chinese-run app that is wildly popular in the West. This followed India’s decision a week earlier to prohibit it, and 58 other Chinese apps, after lethal brawls between soldiers in the Himalayas. Britain and France are considering sidelining Huawei from their 5G networks. Between July 6th and 7th Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter all said that they will stop co-operating with Hong Kong’s authorities for the time being, because of the introduction of China’s brutal security law there. And SMIC, China’s aspiring semiconductor champion, has just said that it will raise $7bn in a state-supported listing in Shanghai—it delisted from New York last year. The proceeds will be used to supersize China’s home-grown chipmaking capacity.

然而仔细回顾过去两周发生的事件,就会察觉分裂即将发生。7月6日,美国国务卿迈克·蓬佩奥表示,美国政府正考虑禁用TikTok,一款由中国公司运营并在西方广受欢迎的应用。此前一周,在印中两国士兵在喜马拉雅山脉发生了致命的肢体冲突之后,印度决定禁用TikTok和其他58款中国应用。英国和法国正在考虑将华为排除在自己的5G网络建设之外。7月6日到7日,Facebook、谷歌、微软和推特都表示,由于中国在香港实施严酷的国安法,它们将暂停与香港政府的合作。而雄心勃勃的中国半导体领军企业中芯国际刚刚表示,将在政府支持下在上海上市(去年它从纽约退市),融资70亿美元。这些资金将用于扩大中国本土的芯片产能。

The split is happening at two velocities. The American and Chinese software and internet universes are heading at light-speed towards total separation. They were never particularly connected—American software firms made just 3% of their sales in China last year, and China has long kept its internet users isolated from the world. The bill for shutting up shop and finding substitute products is usually low. TikTok creates few jobs and pays little or no tax in America or India, so the main cost of banning it is sullen teenagers. Likewise, Facebook and the other firms taking a stand in Hong Kong do little or no business in China. Two important exceptions have been Microsoft’s office software and, especially, Google’s system of apps like Gmail and Maps, found on Chinese-made phones sold worldwide. America’s blacklisting of Huawei has cut off the world’s second-biggest phone seller from some of the world’s most popular apps. Chinese handset firms are racing to develop an alternative. The American and Chinese software worlds are thus quickly becoming entirely separate universes.

分裂正以两种速度推进。美中两国的软件和互联网领域正以光速走向彻底决裂。它们之间从未有过特别的联系——美国的软件公司去年在中国的销售额仅占它们总销售额的3%,而中国一直将其互联网用户与世界其他地方隔绝开来。禁用软件和寻找替代品造成的经济损失通常很低。TikTok在美国和印度创造的就业机会少之又少,也很少缴税或不缴税,所以禁用它的主要代价就是青少年会很郁闷。同样,Facebook和其他在香港问题上表明立场的公司在中国大陆也很少或没有业务。不过有两个重要的例外,即微软的office软件以及谷歌的邮箱和地图等应用——特别是谷歌的应用系统被安装在中国制造并销往世界各地的手机中。美国把华为列入黑名单后,这家世界第二大手机销售商就无法再使用一些全球最受欢迎的应用。中国的手机厂商正在加紧开发替代品。这样,中美两国的软件领域正飞速成为两个完全独立的世界。

Hardware is moving much more slowly. That is because it is more globally integrated and involves $1trn of physical plant and $400bn of inventories. Later this year Apple will launch a new 5G handset that will still rely on the same vast manufacturing cluster in China that it used five years ago. Even so, the techtonic plates are shifting. Because of a new set of American restrictions on the use of chipmaking tools put in place in May, Huawei may run out of stock of its specialist chips in early 2021 and will have to scramble to find an alternative. That will be cumbersome and costly. The SMIC capital-raising shows that China intends to create a chip giant on a par with Intel or Taiwan’s TSMC, although it will take years to do so. If Britain and France both eventually ditch Huawei, they will shift to using Nokia and Ericsson in their networks, which will be expensive and take several years.

硬件领域的分裂要慢得多。这是因为它全球一体化的程度更高,并且涉及一万亿美元的实体工厂和4000亿美元的库存。今年晚些时候,苹果将推出新款5G手机,新手机的生产仍然要依赖它五年前在中国使用的同一个庞大的制造集群。即便如此,科技板块还是在移动。由于美国在5月新出台了一系列针对使用芯片制造设备的限制措施,华为可能会在2021年初耗尽所有专用芯片的库存,并不得不努力寻找替代品。这既费力又费钱。中芯国际的融资表明中国大陆想要打造一家可比肩英特尔或台湾台积电的芯片巨头,尽管这将耗时多年。如果英国和法国最终都放弃华为,它们就要在自己的网络中改用诺基亚和爱立信的设备,而这也会很昂贵,并且要花好几年时间。

If the splintering now seems inevitable, there will be some surprises. One is how the two technospheres of influence are drawn. American policymakers tend to assume the world will use Silicon Valley products, but plenty of countries may ally with China’s tech system or hedge their bets. India is frosty towards both American and Chinese digital firms and hopes to build up its own champions, although it cannot compete yet in hardware. Another surprise is how much the split could cost. The global listed hardware industry has annual expenses of $600bn, much of which may need to be replicated. Plenty of key firms, including Apple and TSMC, are equally dependent on America and China and have no clear plan to cope with a deeper divide. The tech split is under way. Do not assume it will happen safely.■

如果说分裂看来已不可避免,前路还是会有一些出人意料之处。一是这两个科技大国如何划分势力范围。美国的政策制定者往往认为全球会使用硅谷的产品,但也有许多国家可能会与中国的科技体系结盟,或者两边下注。印度对美国和中国的数字企业都很冷淡,它希望打造出自己的领军企业,尽管它目前在硬件方面还不具备抗衡能力。另一个意外是分裂可能造成的代价几何。全球的上市硬件企业每年支出6000亿美元,日后这其中的一大块可能需要重复支出。包括苹果和台积电在内的许多重量级公司对美国和中国的依赖程度不相上下,也没有明确的计划来应对扩大的鸿沟。科技分裂已经开始,别以为它会发生得很安稳。