In a speech given in Seattle on Wednesday, Microsoft President Brad Smith shared his views on the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China. "Increasingly in Washington, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Beijing itself, people are asking: ‘Are we heading toward a new Cold War? A tech Cold War?’ That is one of the questions the 2020s will answer," he said.
For a while now, Smith has been vocalizing his concerns to his domestic and foreign audiences.
In December, Smith spoke of a "Tech Cold War" between both giants and said that the trade issues could define the next decade. In particular, Smith said that American and Chinese trade issues will impact global sustainability, issues involving human rights, press freedom, digital privacy, data sovereignty, ethical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, employment rates, and more.
Deja vu? — In a LinkedIn blog post in December, Smith wrote alongside Carol Ann Browne about how the current back and forth between America and China is similar to the hostility America displayed toward Russia several decades ago.
"As the 2010s close, the United States is responding with new efforts to contain the spread of Chinese technology," they both wrote. "It’s not entirely different from the American efforts to contain Russian ideology and influence in the Cold War that began seven decades ago. Powered in part by American efforts to dissuade other governments from adopting 5G equipment from China, tensions heightened in 2019 when the U.S. Department of Commerce banned American tech companies from selling to Huawei components for its products."
In his speech on Wednesday, Smith reiterated his worries. But he ended his address on an optimistic note. The Microsoft president said that while both American and Chinese governments were struggling to find common ground, Microsoft would continue to provide services around the world, including China.
Of note, he said that he hoped that both countries could reach an agreement to encourage scientific research for public good. "[There has been an] explosion of innovation in China," he noted. "One of the things that we at Microsoft have long appreciated is the enormous ingenuity of the engineering population of China."