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A long march to high-tech self-reliance would hold back China

Best response to US protectionism is more trade with other global partners

| China
A chipset designed by HiSilicon: China's state-led attempts to develop advanced chipmaking capabilities have been expensive failures.   © Reuters

Self-reliance strikes a powerful cultural chord in China, bringing to mind 1940s slogans coined by Mao Zedong as he ground out bloody victories in the country's civil war. Over recent months the notion has enjoyed a resurgence, reawakened by President Donald Trump's moves to deny critical technologies to companies like Huawei in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

It is hardly surprising that China's leadership find such threats unacceptable, and thus is talking up its ability to develop indigenous technologies in areas like semiconductors. But that does not make the idea of a push for technological self-reliance any more sensible, given the most plausible route to rapid Chinese development still lies with greater integration with the world economy, not less.

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