Asian Countries Help Their Rising Tech Stars

Nikkei Asian Review August 5, 2020 0:300 J.S.T. “Asia’s regulators ignore rising influence of Big Tech at their peril”. “Market power of Alibaba, Reliance, Tencent and Gojek outweigh U.S. behemoths” “Supporting concentrated monopolies has become the official policy across much of Asia”


Asia businesses watched the American Congressional hearings with CEO’s from Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook with curiosity. Many believe that these tech giants could face more scrutiny under a Biden administration. The current policies of many Asian governments reflect an early stage of tech business development. “China and India in particular are racing to nurture dominant national technology champions." Others, more aware of the more mature tech business warn that unbridled support “may turn out to be mixed blessing at best.”

In America companies like “Apple, Amazon and Netflix et al. are only growing more valuable as the COVID-19 crisis winds on, pulling out blockbuster earnings and cementing their position as Wall St. darlings.” During the Antitrust Subcommittee Meeting in the U.S. House of Representatives, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) remarked “concentration of power in any form, especially concentration in economics and political power, is dangerous in to a democratic society.”

China strongly supports rivals to American technology like Alibaba, Bytedance, Huawei Technologies and Tencent Holdings but they do so “under tight social controls.” In India, Jio Telecom a budding conglomerate is another “Asian state-backed tech monopoly-in-the-making” as they drive under “billionaire Mukesh Ambani, to dominate everything from social media to retail…”. Interestingly, Jio as received “$20B in recent investments from Facebook, Google [Alphabet]” and others. Ambani expects Prime Minister Modi’s support with regulations designed to help “Indian domestic players…”. Other start-ups like Grab and Gojek are hoping for similar support.

Asian governments see support as helping speed their economic development and avoiding what would be a “growing reliance on foreign multinationals for investment and technological know-how.” Recent successes further fuel acceptance of this approach as “customers in Shanghai and Mumbai have benefited…from Tencent’s…online payment systems…and Reliance’s ultracheap …4G mobile rates.” Further-on-down-the-road “China’s tech conglomerates have…sprawled into [other] sectors…not the least financial services.”

Those with a historical perspective wonder if such close government and business alliances could lead to a regional repeat of “unproductive cronyism rather than innovation.”