What happened: Pony Ma, founder and CEO of Chinese tech giant Tencent, said at a Tencent event Tuesday that he is keeping a close eye on whether the escalating trade dispute between China and US will turn to a tech war. The tech tycoon also stressed the importance of investing in fundamental research and key technologies. Without innovation in these key aspects, China’s digital economy will be a “high-rise built on sand” and “hard to sustain.”
“China has come to the forefront of development. There is less and less room for taking the best from outside and improving on them,” Ma said.
Why it’s important: The trade tensions between China and the US intensified this month with both countries raising tariffs on goods imported from one another. A number of big names in tech, both Chinese and US, have been entangled in the dispute. The US Commerce Department has banned American companies from selling components and other technology to Huawei, cutting it off from certain Google services, chips made by Qualcomm and Intel, and potentially banning Windows. Wider impact of the trade war on the tech world is taking effect too. Tech stocks tumble as China retaliates in equal measure to raise US tariffs. China has already moved to the frontier in areas such as mobile phones, 5G networks, supercomputers, e-commerce, and mobile payments, but it is still lags in semiconductors, robots, manufacturing technology, and aviation. The trade war pressures are pushing Chinese companies to improve on these industries in a bid to stay competitive.