Jacob Silverman at The Baffler:
China’s rise as a tech powerhouse has dovetailed with Silicon Valley’s growing, and often vividly expressed, distrust toward democracy itself. Always steeped in libertarian pique—not long ago, technologists expressed hope for floating ad-hoc nation-states or, as Larry Page put it, referencing Burning Man, “some safe places where we can try out some new things”— Silicon Valley now toys with Californian secessionism and Singapore-style authoritarian technocracy. That new horizon, that place of raucous experimentation with a frontier-like possibility at striking it rich, they believe, is in China.
Long the industrial producer of Silicon Valley’s gadgets, China has developed its own thriving startup scene, towered over by juggernauts like Alibaba, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Tencent, which are formidable rivals to Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, et al. From biotech to facial recognition systems, Chinese tech companies and their state backers are working intently on bleeding-edge technologies that can in turn be sold to governments in Central Asia and Africa, where China has funded numerous infrastructure projects while snapping up interests in mines, farmland, ports, and a Djiboutian military outpost.