Europe: a sleeping beauty
How not to be shocked by the near-economic disappearance of Europe? The “acceleration of the European economy” mentioned by Emmanuel Macron in China this April is a tale that no longer comforts or deceives anyone. Readers: your first electric car will most likely be Chinese, as China has now surpassed Germany as the world’s second-largest exporter of vehicles. This continent, which invented the car, is reduced to importing its electric vehicles, of which it has become a major consumer, as it does not produce them. What a sudden decline for Europe, which exported so many cars to China and boasted of outdoing others in terms of equipment industries: it did not see the end of the combustion engine coming.
We will soon be downgraded even in a field where we were champions, namely that of heavy transport, as the French President has accepted, still as part of this trip to China, to double the local production of Airbus, thus offering the Chinese ample opportunity to appropriate the technology in order to outperform the Europeans. Exactly as was the case when Siemens made available to them its high-speed train technology. Like Kuka Robotics, the world-renowned German industrial robotics flagship, slowly eaten away by Chinese shareholders who started at 5.4% in 2016 and are now at 95%.
Why would the Chinese refrain from doing so when Europeans systematically opt for immediate profit to the detriment of their own technological sustainability in the long term? For those who took the trouble to be interested and who incidentally know how to read, the objectives were clearly defined as early as 2018 in the roadmap entitled “Made in China 2025,” which are: “an initiative aimed at securing China’s position as a global power in high-tech industries. The goal is to reduce China’s dependence on imported foreign technology and to invest massively in its own innovations in order to create Chinese companies capable of competing both in the national and global markets.”
This is why our German industrial engine is now doubled by China, and this while our neighbor is pitifully closing all its nuclear power plants in the midst of a global energy crisis. This is why Germany’s trade deficit with China in 2022, at 85 billion euros, was the highest ever recorded by statistics – I remind you – in a context of sanctions against Russia paralyzing the first European economy, and which also makes it increasingly dependent on the Chinese market for its survival.
Europe – whose GDP was roughly equivalent to that of the United States in the early 1980s – has since fallen far behind. It was also overtaken by China in 2020. It is as if this continent unilaterally chose to deny the technologies of the future when it could have become the equal of Americans in a field where it nevertheless shines with the quality of its brains. From the outset, Europe did not so much see these rapid advances as economic opportunities as threats that had to be regulated over and over again. For the vision that Europe has of progress is primarily problematic. It is simple: it legislates, it issues directives and regulations, while others invent and produce.
How then can we be surprised by Europe’s near invisibility in Artificial Intelligence? Is it not both anecdotal – but oh so revealing – that Italy and perhaps soon France are banning ChatGPT? How can we move forward, how can we be competitive on a universal scale, in areas that we consider to be threats? When will Europe understand that it is useless to regulate – or to want to be the champion of morality – without mastering its own economic power? This continent – which is now lagging behind in almost every industrial and technological sector – is not actually seeking to become a superpower. Its ambition is to maintain its high quality of life and not to meddle in crises that are not its own.
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