Trade talks between China and the United States last week ended abruptly and with no discernible progress. Technology was one of the key sticking points, with the US pressing China to put a stop to state subsidies for technology firms under its “Made in China 2025” plan — a blueprint for establishing Chinese domination of advanced industries currently in development, what Axios recently called “the 10 biggest technologies of the future.”

But if we understand how the Chinese Communist Party perceives the need to secure the technologies of the future through the lens of the past, we can better understand just how much it has invested in the idea of Chinese dominance — and how difficult it likely will be to arrive at a compromise of the kind Trump’s negotiators are hoping for.

The following text is a very partial translation of a piece appearing yesterday on page 11 in China’s Guangming Daily, a newspaper published by the Central Propaganda Department. The piece, which was also posted at People’s Daily Online and other sites, was written by Zhi Zhenfeng (支振锋), a researcher in the Socialism With Chinese Characteristics Theoretical System Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

We translate the opening of the piece just to offer a taste of the official rhetoric surrounding China’s technological advancement and its link both to long-term national development and to the legitimacy and longevity of the Party itself. The reference to the building of an “Internet Power,” readers should note, refers more broadly to cyber technologies and their application across a range of industries.

The basic sense in Zhi Zhenfeng’s piece, which mirrors much official writing on new technologies, is that China, while globally pre-eminent in the agrarian phase of human history, missed out on the industrial revolution and therefore lost its rightful position in the world.

China — or so goes the story — will not make the same mistake again, as the world is on the brink of the next great revolution.

The Fundamental Path to Accelerating the Advancement of the Building of an Internet Power 
(加快推进网络强国建设的根本遵循)
May 7, 2018 / Guangming Daily

In his important speech to the National Cybersecurity Work Conference, General Secretary Xi Jinping stood in the midst of human historical development, at the heights of the overall situation of Party and government work, condensing human historical development and the experiences and knowledge of Chinese people, and accurately grasped the intrinsic principles of the advancing technological revolution and the precious transformation in social production (社会生产变革), scientifically analyzed transformative trends in digitalization and the historic responsibility we bear, systematically described the rich meaning of the Internet Power strategy, profoundly responded to a series of major questions concerning theories and experiences in the development of cyber tasks, and provided the fundamental path to seizing the historic opportunity of the information revolution, accelerating cybersecurity and digitalization work, and accelerating the promotion of definite forward progress in building an Internet Power. A magnificent blueprint drawn on a single sheet of paper, setting a start to a glorious cause. The notion of “the people as the center” established the basic tone woven through this important historical document, and “building an Internet Power” is the strong note advancing bravely in this beautiful symphonic movement.

Digitalization has brought the Chinese people the historic opportunity of a millenium

Humankind has experienced an agricultural revolution, an industrial revolution, and is now experiencing an information revolution. Every revolution in industry has immensely enriched the existence of humankind, bringing multidimensional change economically and politically. During the extended period of agrarian society, China was an economic power in the world, creating a resplendent culture, but it later missed out on the industrial revolution, missed an historic opportunity to progress along with the world, and it gradually slipped to a position where it was passively subjected to abuse. Through several generations of effort, we have never been so close as we are now to the goal of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese People, nor have we ever been so confident as we are today, or so capable of realizing the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese people.

Now and in the coming period, our country’s development goal is to realize the “two millennial goals” as the objective of our struggle. The information revolution has enhanced the mental power of humanity, and it is bringing another flying leap in productivity, creating a broader economic and social transformation. New technologies have brought a new economy, and the new economy has engendered new businesses. . . .

As General Secretary Xi Jinping has pointed out: “Digitalization offers the Chinese people an extremely rare opportunity.”