December 7, 2022
(The text is an adaption of an earlier article on Chinasquare.be)
As one of the editors of chinasquare.be, the Dutch language site for neutral news about China, I recently set out to write about the possible prohibition by the Dutch government for ASML to export chip-making machines to China, based on a directive from Washington. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade has publicly stated about that directive that ‘the Netherlands will not copy the US policy completely’.
It is heartening to see that an EU politician is at least willing to give the impression that she is not on an American leash, but I need to add to this statement that the Dutch government had already stopped ASML from selling its high-end Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) technology to China in 2020.
This is already hurting ASML’s China business. Reportedly, the number of orders from China has decreased and there is a danger that they will go to Asian competitors. ASML has won its leading position from those same competitors only recently. The Dutch government now has to choose to aid one of its flagship enterprises and oppose big brother on the other side of the Atlantic or listen to its master’s voice and give up ASML.
While writing, I began to wonder about the deeper motivation of Western governments to go into all these problems over a matter that is lost already. We know by now that none of the measures is stopping China’s development, nor that of Chinese enterprises. Huawei is still striving, in spite of the problems it has to overcome due to the US trade war.
And more than that, it seems as if Western attempts to deter China’s development are strengthening the determination of the entire nation to develop home-brewed technologies equal to or exceeding Western technology. Sticking with chip-making, Chinese R&D may make some of ASML’s technology obsolescent rather soon.
Thus, the chip industry is going through a period of rapid development. A new technology is being developed: the photonic integrated circuit (PIC). This is not a technology site so we will skip the technical details here. What is useful to know is that the news is circulating that a Chinese company, Sintone in Beijing, is leading in this technology. It expects to be able to launch it as early as next year.
China as anomaly
What I came up with is that China contradicts a number of Western dogmas about what the world is about and where the world is going. For example, Western economists teach us that non-Western nations can only reach our level of development if they adopt our political and economic institutions. That hypothesis is contradicted and particularly by China.
In the eyes of (too) many Western politicians and academics, China is an anomaly that should not exist. However, it does exist. This seems to be turning around the Western willingness to help non-Western nations to develop into an inclination to slow down that development as much as possible to maintain Western domination.
This conclusion sheds new light on the Western notion of development aid. As a West-European sixty-odd person, I was brought up with the idea that we had the responsibility to help what was then called the ‘third world’ in its development. The people there were very much behind, and we were able to help them with technology that was obsolescent for us but meant a step forward for them.
In order not to appear derogatory, our politicians spoke of development cooperation (ontwikkelingssamenwerking in Dutch). That sounded very noble until some of those countries, with China leading the way, started to match or even surpass the Western level in more and more technological realms.
The Western view on China developed as quickly as the development of the nation itself. During the nineties, most Westerners were enthusiastic about the development and the commercial opportunities it offered. That turned into a slight concern at the beginning of this century. China was still developing rapidly, but the expected socio-political changes did not materialise.
After the rise of Xi Jinping, the concern turned into fear. China refuted too many Western dogmas about what the world was about. You could not make such a large, and now also strong, country disappear, but you could still try to counteract the development that ought to not take place.
And that is exactly what ASML is suffering from. I still quote the Dutch minister: ‘The US wants democratic countries to keep a technological lead over China’. The concept of democracy is not defined. Apparently, the minister believes that everyone uses the same definition. That is certainly not the case, and I would like to refer to an earlier article here on The Transnational about the Chinese version of democracy.
It is sad to see that Western development cooperation is turning into development opposition. Other non-Western nations also see this and therefore side with China in the trade war that the US has started against this country.
The growing interest in joining BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization speaks volumes about this.
Hopefully, a sufficient number of politicians in the EU countries will also see this so that they can distance themselves from American policy before it will be too late.
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About Peter Peverelli
In addition to the TFF link above the article, you may also find Peter Peverelli – who speaks Chinese and has several decades of experience from working in China – on Linkedin where he frequently presents analyses and contributes constructively to the public education about China, not the least from a cultural point of view. Connect with him there.
Peter joined us as TFF Associate in January 2022.