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Oscar Abraham Raya López

Chinese techno-nationalism: the new Cold War?

- During his victory ceremony as president, Xi Jinping expressed his vision for China as a global technology leader in the short and long term.

Chinese techno-nationalism: the new Cold War?

Techno-nationalism can be understood as a new version of mercantilist thought that links technological innovation and capabilities directly with national security, economic prosperity and social stability of a country (Capri, 2019, par. 4). Following this logic, the State must intervene and protect itself against opportunistic or hostile countries and private actors, thus obtaining technological competitive advantage, both internal and external, in addition to leveraging these skills to the geopolitical terrain (Capri, 2019, par. 5).

Given its nationalist and conservative nature, technonationalism can be considered a counterproposal to globalization. After years where global interconnectivity increased significantly, this strategy appeared to seek to reverse the pre-established processes, however, several experts in the field assure that globalization will persist in the long term (World Economic Forum, 2019, par. 1-2). In the Chinese case, President Xi Jinping is the leader who has dedicated the most emphasis and effort to techno-nationalism, mainly due to the constant sanctions from the United States against Chinese companies, such as Huawei.

Origins of Chinese Technonationalism: Constant Pressure from the West

According to the Texas National Security Review, TNSR, at the beginning of 2000, the business and industrial sectors had the vision of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", a movement that would replace borders and national sovereignty with international communities united around the world through companies. and transnational value chains (2021, par. 6). That optimistic vision survived until the financial crisis of 2008, a historical moment marked by the emergence of China as a real alternative to the United States.

Consequently, initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Silk Road were created by China to try to attract the world to its trade and, in the process, replace the United States as a world leader (TNSR, 2021, par. 7). However, the wishes of the Chinese government suffered somewhat five years after the financial crisis.

In 2013, the revelations of Edward Snowden, an American technology consultant, made the world's governments take their computer security very seriously, as well as the origin of the hardware and software of their devices (TNSR, 2021, par. 7). Although Beijing was not the only one affected, Washington and some allies took the warning as a casus belli to justify the gradual abandonment of purchases in the technological sector from the eastern country.

During the Obama administration, the United States imposed "cyber sanctions" against China and mobilized several of its agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, to take defensive and offensive policies against the Asian giant (TNSR, 2021, par. 8). In the case of the Donald Trump government, hostilities in the technological field increased by a lot compared to its predecessor. Proof of this is the policy that prevented both Huawei and ZTE from getting involved in the US technology sector where new elements such as semiconductors are used (Jin, 2022, par. 3).

Other Washington allies have taken similar actions. For example, the United Kingdom in 2020 prohibited the use of the kit to install 5G provided by Huawei in its territory, justifying that British security would be in danger if it allowed the Chinese company to control said technology (BBC News writing, 2020, par. 1 -6). France is another country with a hostile attitude towards the Asian country. Following the same trend as most of its European counterparts, France also prohibited Huawei from installing 5G, in addition to notifying that the Chinese company's licenses cannot be renewed after 2028 (Rosemain & Barzic, 2020, par. 1-4).

Under the Biden presidency, a change in the vision held against China was expected, however, that did not happen. The most significant action created by the current US administration is the "Build Back Better" initiative, which seeks to renew the United States through massive investments in infrastructure, innovation, workforce and American value chains (TNSR, 2020, par. 5). . With attacks this massive and frequent, it's no surprise that Beijing now seeks to become technologically self-reliant.

Chinese Technonationalism: Vision 2049

During his victory ceremony as president, Xi Jinping gave a speech about the future he expected for China in 2049, a significant date because it is the centenary of the Communist Revolution and the founding date of the People's Republic of China (Observer Research Foundation, 2021, p. 6). In that vision, Xi sees his country as a global technology leader in the short and long term.

By 2016, that dream began to crystallize as a result of the consolidation of the Chinese technology industry. It was possible thanks to its exorbitant investments in national research and development programs dedicated to “big data”, clean energy, quantum communications and computing. All of the above with the intention of addressing the technological deficit that China has with the United States and the world (Observer Research Foundation, 2021, p. 8).

Another important strategy for Chinese techno-nationalism is the “CM2025 Initiative”. This seeks to improve national industrial foundations, which include machines, robots, aeronautical and maritime equipment, state-of-the-art rail equipment, green vehicles, electrical infrastructure, machinery for the agricultural sector, pharmaceuticals and better medical devices (Observer Research Foundation, 2021, p.10). Space exploration is also included in the Chinese strategy. Building on the Manhattan Project and NASA's “Apollo” program, Beijing seeks to create new universities, 100 cutting-edge science parks, and its own space base (Jin, 2022, par. 6-9).

So far, the fruits of those actions have succeeded in turning China into a technologically self-sufficient country. As a result of these impeccable advances and desires, the United States is expected to impose more pressure on the Chinese technological giants, which would only cause the Asian country to continue pursuing an even more techno-nationalist policy with serious implications in the rest of the world ( Jin, 2022, par. 18).

Possible impacts

The most likely consequence of Chinese techno-nationalism is a new cold war led by China and the United States, who will compete for technological leadership in the future. Among what could generate this conflict would be the evolution of human capital as a strategic asset, the transformation of universities as a focal center of competence and the collapse of the old cooperation and research networks between the West and the East (The Diplomat, 2020, par. 6-8).

Also, greater nationalism is possible in Washington, which could severely hamper technology export controls on academic institutions. As a result, a change is expected in the academy to adapt to having control over who they sell or share software and IP codes to, reduce or prohibit the payment of scholarships for foreign students from the East and make a blacklist on possible spies. (The Diplomat, 2020, par. 30-31).

Even with such a pessimistic scenario, there are experts and academics on both sides, both American and Chinese, who call for an end to the conflict. For Pan Jiafeng, president of the Institute of Science and Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, no one will see gains from techno-nationalism, arguing that it should seek to improve interdependence and win-win collaboration without forgetting security concerns (World Economic Forum, par 7-8).


    BBC News redacción. (15 de julio de 2020). Huawei: China attacks UK’s “groundless” ban of 5G Kit. BBC NEWS. Recuperado de:

    Capri, A. (20 de diciembre de 2019). Techno-Nationalism: What is it and how will it change global commerce? Forbes. Recuperado de:

    Jin, K. (1 de abril de 2022). America is fueling Chinese techno-nationalism. The Japan Times. Recuperado de:

    Observer Research Foundation. (2021). Sino Techno-Nationalism Powers Through with China Manufacturing 2025. Recuperado de:

    Rosemain, M & Barzic, G. (22 de julio de 2020). Exclusive: French limits on Huawei 5G equipment amount to de facto ban by 2028. REUTERS. Recuperado de:

    Texas National Security Review. (2021). A world divided: the conflict with Chinese techno-nationalism isn’t coming – it’s already here. Recuperado de:

    The Diplomat. (2020). US-China Techno-Nationalism and the Decoupling of Innovation. Recuperado de:

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Raya, Oscar. “Tecnonacionalismo chino: ¿la nueva Guerra Fría?.” CEMERI, 22 sept. 2022,