Tech giants have amassed so much influence that they’ve become a threat to the market, and even to state sovereignty. While employees of Big Tech enjoy huge salaries and perks, the contract workers beneath them suffer a precarious existence, living paycheck to paycheck. The ever-increasing costs of living are leading to unprecedented pessimism among young people, who have given up adulthood rites of passage like owning a house or having children.
Economic inequality is also at an all-time high. Fuelled by the pandemic, the gap between the haves and have-nots is exacerbated by the urban and rural divide, continued lockdowns, and lack of digital access. All this is happening as the private sector funnels money towards digital ‘solutions’ of questionable utility and socially useless financial speculation.
These problems are as much American as they are Chinese. Yet Beijing has taken aim at Big Tech in a way that the Americans are loath to do.
GOOD AND BAD For decades, China’s tech companies have emulated the Silicon Valley model of innovation. The West has GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. China has BATX: Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi. Whatever the West has done, China has followed – and in some respects, even surpassed their American rivals. Many hailed China’s tech revolution as the new way that tech should be doing business. Shenzhen, the heart of China’s tech boom, transformed itself from a fishing village in the 1970s into a futuristic metropolis within a single generation.
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