Welcome to the tech wars. Despite her release on bail, the arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has ratcheted up simmering tensions between China and the US in a global contest for technological supremacy between the leaders of competing and increasingly incompatible systems of governance. This quest for information dominance is a driver of global cyber conflict, a shadowy undeclared war that is intensifying and becoming a serious security concern for Australia.
Control of three key enabling technologies — semiconductors, quantum computing and artificial intelligence — would give the pre-eminent cyber nation a decisive advantage in this high-stakes competition. Technological excellence has always underpinned economic and military capability and is a powerful catalyst for change in the international system. No longer is the internet dominated by the US and the West, as other states seek a more prominent role in shaping the rules of the digital age.
Two other dimensions of the emerging tech wars have equally profound consequences. They are the growing tension between security and privacy in cyberspace, exemplified by the furious debate that accompanied the passage of encryption legislation, and protecting consumer and media rights from unethical practices by tech titans, recently highlighted by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s warning about discriminatory conduct by Google and Facebook.