You have to wonder if anyone has properly thought through the Trump trade bans with China. The answer is clearly no. It is one thing to ban the import of sugar. It is quite another to try and reverse 30 years of digital globalisation and increasing maturity.
For a start, it will, of course, hurt US companies. We all know that Apple iPhones are built in China, as are many other companies’ products, and analysts are predicting iPhone sales could take a 30% hit.
So what will happen now?
We know that when the TikTok ban in the US comes into force, it will be a nightmare to unravel which is what and what is whose – and police the ban. The internet is, after all, a global network (OK, 36,000 global networks) and there are VPNs and other, darker, ways of accessing, well, anything you want. The teenagers will love the challenge.
If Microsoft buys TikTok, what happens to its activities in China? We reported yesterday that its Chinese operations are ahead of anything any other US company has achieved in the country, even if there are many frustrations involved.
But what does China do about an American company – that they currently tolerate – buying a Chinese owned company?
Probably causes all sorts of issues, which will trigger an even greater Trump trade tirade. And so it will go.
Social media, meanwhile, although controlled by a handful of giants, also has hundreds of start-ups waiting to spring up for their chance at the big time. In the last week, downloads of previously unheard of apps has gone through the roof. Even the main contenders are probably only known to teenagers.
Here are the top four, courtesy of the MIT Technology Review Download: ‘Reels, a Facebook-owned copycat app which launched in the US yesterday, Byte, a resurrection of 6-second video platform Vine, Triller, which feels like a more polished TikTok, and Clash, which is reportedly the most similar.’
Facebook launching its copycat app a couple of days ago is, of course, interesting in itself. And here are the ‘top’ 75 to watch.
If Trump tries to ban any others that have Chinese connections, then, like Gremlins, that action will trigger a reaction and the of launch of thousands of others. He will have a challenge on his hands.
If the ban is enforced, it will take years to unravel the different parts of the puzzle and replace them with ‘acceptable’ new parts. It will cost billions and it will mean companies spending hundreds of millions more moving their manufacturing operations to ‘acceptable’ regions and countries.
And if Trump does not win the upcoming election at the end of the year, does it all go away under the Democrats? If Trump does get back in, it will take the whole of his second term and more to even see the finish line.
Meanwhile, there will be chaos and despair and the undoing of 30 years of progress.
In the end, if the Trump trade war is won (a Pyhrric victory at best), we will probably end up with thousands, perhaps millions of little local internets, with little local apps doing little local things.
And that would be a great shame.