How US-China Trade War Will Shape the Future of Asia

Recently the media has been abuzz with the news of an ongoing US-China trade war. Tariffs have dominated most of the discussion and why shouldn’t it – the annual value of Chinese products now subject to the U.S. punitive import tariffs is about $50 billion. While this can be mistaken for Trump bashing China to milk political favours and potentially increase his vote count, it fails to tell the larger story at play here.

This confrontation is, in fact, a new war for supremacy in which the rise of new global power is at stake. It is only apparent when you connect the dots littered across these past few years – most recently of course, there is the incident on December 1st last year, when Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei – a Chinese technology giant – and daughter of founder Ren Zhengfui was detained in Canada on suspicion of violating US trade sanctions.

Huawei has long been under investigation for the same by federal authorities. The official reason for her arrest is that Huawei is suspected of selling technology to Iran, in violating US sanctions. It is the second big Chinese tech company to be accused of breaching those sanctions in a matter of years. The first was ZTE Corp in 2017. The US punished ZTE by forbidding it from buying American components. It seemed as if Huawei will undergo similar scrutiny, but the story changed when US efforts were far and thorough in seeing the downfall of Huawei. One might wonder why.

This is because of another trade war that has been running on the background – a much stealthier conflict, fought with weapons of a subtler nature and certainly more devastating than any tariffs. And the prize here is domination of the information-technology industry. The US wants to prevent China from challenging its digital supremacy and will deliberately try to derail Made in China 2025 – the industrial policy that has been set up to establish China as a high-tech superpower. This subtle, far-sighted nature of approach suggests that the impetus for this high-tech war that is brewing goes beyond any Trump. It’s even possible that US tech companies, as well as military intelligence communities, are influencing the policy here, with Trump being but a puppet on strings soaking up all the limelight while the rest ploy their way through.

Silicon Valley had not been able to crack China. The desperation of Google and Facebook are seeping into politics. Because at stake is the opportunity to control the global economy at a scale that was not previously possible. The US has always been the centre of technology but had started to shift dramatically by early 2018 when among the 20-leading Internet-based companies across the world, 9 were Chinese. The remaining 11 were from the US. This alone shows the dominance of these two countries.

China, though, did not begin as a powerhouse in technology. It was in manufacturing that they found their roots. This shift in China’s technology sector – from being low-cost manufacturers to innovation leaders – has grown in two parts. One – it was fuelled by the changing nature of the Chinese economy. Two – the many technologies that were coming China’s way from US giants to be manufactured there had slowly but surely leaked out into the Chinese market wherein the big giants like Facebook and Amazon were absent. This lack of competition and Chinese own high demographics and tech-leaning population meant that Chinese internet-based companies received an unprecedented advantage. The large local market, high internet penetration, limited foreign competition and supportive government policies paved way for Chinese dominance in the global arena.

It has been labelled as cold-war in the media, but it is inadequate to describe what is happening here. I understand the dramatic appeal that it might imply because it conjures two giants up in arms against each other, but in today’s complex world, it fails to account for the ideological and geopolitical tensions that are growing in a deeply connected and integrated technological environment. It does put India in an interesting position, however. This trade war between the US and China would mean that US companies then would have no option but to consider the next big market for manufacturing. India. Given how our own Make in India policy has been a big success, we are certain to be able to lure the US companies including tech giants like Apple here. This alone could shape the future of Asia – India then is poised to become the superpower in the East.

Interview: MALI, singer/songwriter.

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With her honest music and unassuming, reflective debut EP RUSH, Mali holds the promise of the young indie artist that you’ll be hearing a lot more of.
– Platform Magazine

You credit so much of your success to being in Mumbai – what is it about the city that allures the most to your creative side? Or was it the ‘moving away’ from places that you’ve been comfortable with to newer places and the spirit of adventure that comes with it that paved the way for your musical journey? A bit of both?

MALI: I think it was definitely moving away from my cushy life in Chennai and coming to a city like Mumbai that’s way bigger and more competitive. Just moving out of my comfort zone allowed me to push my limits a bit. That said, Mumbai is exploding with a lot of young talent. People from all over the country and even abroad have moved here to follow their passions so being surrounded by people with that kind of ambition inspires me every day.

Often the biggest hurdle someone pursuing their passion has to face is the societal expectation of them on making it big in what is considered ‘safe’ career paths. How did you navigate around that, and when did it begin to seem to you that everyone is now okay with you being a singer-songwriter?

MALI: Let me open with saying that music, especially indie music, is not the safest career option. I encourage people to get into it, but at their own risk. It involves hustling on a daily basis, being content with a simple life, being open to new experiences and being good at thinking on your feet. It’s not for everyone. Now that I’ve released some music and I’m committed to being consistent about that, people have started to take me more seriously as a singer-songwriter.

I take it that your songs are inspired by personal experiences – how does that form from memories, ideas and onto paper. Could you describe your songwriting process, please? Would you already know how the music to that song would sound while working on the lyrics or does that come later?

MALI: The process changes with each song. Some songs start out with a lyrical idea. Some of them start with a melody line or a riff. Some songs are written over months and years and some are written in less than an hour! It really has to with your frame of mind and what the song is trying to say. Sometimes I start out with one line and I don’t even know what the song means until I’ve written half of it.

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Are there any specific places – physical, otherwise – that you often find yourself retreating to for creative inspiration, to relax and stay positive?

MALI: I try and change my routine around a bit, experience something new, meet new people or just try creating something. It could be as simple as cooking a meal for yourself. But I think that goes a long way towards opening your mind up and stimulating your creative self.

Being part of a collective that shares the same passion as you for music certainly does help negate bad spirits. Could you let me know how it was working/ collaborating with other artists? How does your brainstorming sessions usually go?

MALI: I have a band with three of the most talented boys from the indie music scene in Mumbai – Stuart DaCosta (Bass), Jehangir Jehangir (drums) and Tejas Menon (guitar). We worked on my first EP, Rush together and they really brought out the best in me and my songs. We are all influenced by very different kinds of music and that’s what makes it interesting to work together. They’re also the nicest guys around and traveling and performing with them is always a memorable and enjoyable experience.

India music scene is definitely evolving, with you and a bunch of others heralding this change. What would be your advice to someone wanting to make music? Do you think to make the move to places like Mumbai, Delhi where this is an organized network of support for indie artists is wiser than to remain where one is and tinker with the internet?

MALI: It really depends on what you’re looking for. Some artists find that it makes more sense to live in their hometowns, probably because they already have a large following their or the music they make is in a local language. I personally moved because I wanted to be around more singer-songwriters and Mumbai offered that ethos.

I also wanted to get your thoughts on the connectedness that the internet has opened up, making it even easier for indie bands to get recognized without having to, as you put it, make film videos etc. Working as a publicist, I understand that this connectedness also brings with it the constant need to be out-there and in-reach to a lot of your fans and others. Do you have a team helping you with this or do publicity and marketing take a backseat before the music?

MALI: The internet has definitely changed the way artists make content and engage with their audience. I believe it’s really important to be connected with the consumers of your music, whether it’s by uploading insta-stories every day or just replying to messages you receive from fans, you can’t afford to be on a high horse about that anymore. I don’t have a team, but I work on a project to project basis with some really talented friends who are great at what they do. I try my best to be consistent with the music and work I put out, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

Rush was brilliant – I thoroughly enjoyed it, esp Sooner or Later and Changed Situations. You’ve been labeled a name to watch in the mushrooming indie music scene in India. What plans ahead? Now that you know the lay of the land, what would you do differently?

MALI: Thank you so much! My focus is on just putting out more content and trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. I really want to make music that gets people talking about things – mental health, societal pressures, and just personal struggles.

Message for your fans or readers of this article?

MALI: Yes, please follow me on social media. I try and keep my friends and fans updated about everything I’m doing. More than anything, I just want people to listen to and support independent music from India a lot more. There’s so much great homegrown talent and music that you could potentially love more than your top 40 picks or Bollywood hits. It’s just a matter of hearing music and music and not differentiating between songs in certain languages and certain styles.