Panel discussion

“The USA do things loudly, the Chinese quietly. Europe says nothing at all.”



An explosive issue: Digital globalisation – are we falling behind? Major US corporations dominate the software, cloud computing and artificial intelligence sectors. Asian suppliers manufacture computer chips and other hardware. Is Germany making itself economically dependent and politically vulnerable?

Assessing the current situation, Dr. Katrin Suder, Chair of the Advisory Council on Digitalisation to the German Federal Government, says thatthe German administrative apparatus lags far behind by international standards. She believes Germany faces “major challenges” when it comes to technology but points out that digitalisation is progressing well in the old economy and mechanical engineering sector. The country only has persistent problems when it comes to connecting software and hardware.

When asked about ways out of dependency, Joe Kaeser, Supervisory Board Chairman at Siemens Energy, believes the state is responsible for providing the necessary network infrastructure. He went on to criticise the apparent lack of any plan in this area. Simone Menne, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany and member of several Supervisory Boards, emphasised the EU’s role in this process. She said that it must be possible for young companies to scale up their business models in Europe. Although Europe has a common market, it still does not have enough shared technical standards, including common financial and capital markets. “We have many companies and entrepreneurs, but lack investors with stamina.” Dr. Suder believes in strengthening European companies’ ability to compete, explaining that we must now think about competition on a global level rather than nationally or within Europe. She pointed out such an industrial policy must also be a technology and security policy.

Joe Kaeser criticised the fact that Europe does not have a common position on foreign trade, saying: “The USA do things loudly, the Chinese quietly. Europe says nothing at all.” He also said that China only understands one position – the position of strength. The USA and China are also endeavouring to “decouple” their respective technological spheres. This could cause Europe in particular to suffer if it finds itself caught between these two technological powers. However, Simone Menne believes the risk of an extensive decoupling is fairly low, explaining that the Biden administration is acting pragmatically and sees China as a trading partner. According to Menne, it must be clear even to China that global problems cannot be solved if countries close themselves off from one another.