Countries are turning economic infrastructure into political weapons, và that poses a major risk to business.quý khách hàng sẽ xem: Choke point là gì
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To conduct international commerce, businesses have sầu built an intricate system of networks that move money, information, & components around the world. These networks may look decentralized, but all too frequently, they have sầu major choke points. The majority of global finance transactions, for instance, are relayed through a single organization in Belgium. Many global tech firms depend heavily on the chips Qualcomm makes for Android devices. A huge proportion of global communications are routed through private servers on U.S. soil.

Increasingly, these choke points are being turned into lớn political weapons by governments, và companies are getting caught in the cross fire. The stakes are high: Firms can go out of business if they’re cut off from critical networks. They need lớn analyze their exposure and develop a strategy khổng lồ protect themselves.

Countries are turning economic infrastructure into political weapons, and that poses a major risk to business.

"> Idea in Brief The Vulnerability

To keep the global economy working smoothly, crucial resources such as money, information, and components pass through an intricate system of conduits. But while this critical invisible infrastructure may seem to be decentralized và have sầu multiple redundancies, it has significant choke points.

The New Risk

A new political risk comes from powerful, wealthy states—especially the United States—that use legal authority or coercion lớn turn economic networks into lớn tools of domination, ensnaring businesses in the process.

The Response

Multinational businesses should analyze their exposure to lớn network choke points. Lobbying government officials và teaming up with industry peers to resist coercion can mitigate the risks.

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Since the over of the Cold War, businesses have sầu built an awe-inspiring global infrastructure. Digital pipelines move sầu vast amounts of capital and data around the world, và supply chains crisscross international boundaries in a spider website of commerce. An intricate system of networks keeps the global economy running smoothly, but it’s easy lớn take for granted, because it remains largely hidden from view.

Though these networks appear khổng lồ have multiple redundancies & to lớn be decentralized, many have significant choke points. Global finance relies on a single organization in Belgium to lớn relay the majority of transactions between banks. Cloud computing’s information storage facilities are often located in the United States. Complex supply chains can be dependent on a handful of components, like the chips Qualcomilimet makes for devices with the Android operating system.

These choke points allow seemingly neutral infrastructure to be manipulated by governments khổng lồ further their national strategic goals. China’s push inlớn 5G equipment has raised concerns in the West precisely because it might give the Chinese access lớn key parts of emerging communications networks. nhật bản recently restricted the export to South Korea of three chemicals crucial to the production of semiconductors, because of a political spat with Seoul. And the United States has aggressively exploited its control of a variety of seemingly technical structures that make global trade possible; it now appears increasingly willing lớn turn those structures into a machinery of domination.

This new reality was summed up by former NSA director Michael Hayden in describing why the U.S. government coerced tech companies to help its surveillance efforts by sharing confidential information routed through private servers on U.S. soil: “This is a home page game for us….Why would we not turn the most powerful telecommunications & computing management structure on the planet to lớn our use?”

Today the political risk businesses face doesn’t come just from developing countries that might abruptly change market rules or nationalize assets. It comes from powerful, wealthy states that are turning economic networks inlớn political weapons. The stakes are high. Companies that are isolated from critical networks can go out of business. A global bank blocked by the United States from accessing a secure interbank communication system because it provides financial services khổng lồ an American adversary is not going to be a global ngân hàng for long. A công nghệ manufacturer that can’t buy sophisticated chips is in big trouble. Businesses that control digital hubs & are pressed inlớn service by states can suffer reputational damage. U.S. tech giants like Google và Facebook, for example, took a hit in foreign markets after Edward Snowden revealed that they had cooperated with U.S. surveillance activities.

What can global firms vị to lớn protect themselves? The key is khổng lồ understvà the specifics of the networks your organization depends on và then create a strategy khổng lồ address the possibility that they will become weaponized. But to start with, executives need khổng lồ accept that the world—& specifically, America’s role in it—has changed.

America’s New Role

As political scientists, we’ve been studying the United States’ use of economic networks lớn achieve sầu its national objectives for cthua lớn two decades, và we feel that the corporate world consistently underestimates the risks from this form of political muscle flexing. In large part that’s because the country has long been a proponent & guarantor of global business, so it’s hard to conceive of it as a potential threat. It’s equally hard to lớn imagine that the networks that have sầu been the driving force of globalization could be used khổng lồ chain and entangle companies. But we believe sầu that the “America first” approach, which treats international business infrastructure as a political tool, is profoundly reshaping the world economy.

chú ý that this isn’t a new strategy for the United States; Hayden’s remarks were made in 2013. Indeed, the George W. Bush and Obama administrations both used U.S. Treasury controls & the dollar-clearing system—which converts foreign currencies into dollars, the lingua franca of international trade—khổng lồ try to lớn prsự kiện financial institutions from providing services khổng lồ Iran and North Korea. America’s intelligence services pressed U.S.-based internet-communications firms not only lớn provide data on suspected terrorists but also to help spy on U.S. adversaries, rivals, and even partners.

To understand how things have sầu changed, consider America’s sanctions against Iran. The Society for Worldwide Interngân hàng Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), based in Belgium, runs a secure financial-messaging service that is used for most global financial transactions. In 2012 the Obama administration và the European Union used this choke point lớn press Tehran for concessions on its nuclear program. They cut Iranian financial institutions out of SWIFT in 2012 but then restored access after a nuclear khuyễn mãi giảm giá was struông chồng in năm ngoái.

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During the presidential chiến dịch, Trump railed against the agreement with Iran. Despite desperate attempts by European politicians to lớn save sầu it, the United States withdrew from it in 2018 and then unilaterally reinstated sanctions that made it illegal khổng lồ buy Iranian oil. Any banks—including foreign banks—that facilitate such transactions could face U.S. fines. BNPhường Paribas và others had already paid billions of dollars in penalties for violating the previous round of sanctions. Citing the risk that new fines associated with Iranian trades could destabilize the financial system, SWIFT felt it had no choice but to lớn cut off Iranian banks’ access in 2018. This time the Europeans were apoplectic. French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that European countries should not accept the United States as the “economic policeman of the planet” and allow themselves to lớn become its “vassals.”

The Trump administration has also exploited its de facto control of the flow of crucial tech components to target both Đài Loan Trung Quốc and rogue states lượt thích Iran & North Korea. From 2010 to năm nhâm thìn the Chinese telecommunications manufacturer ZTE sold restricted technologies lớn Iran và North Korea, violating U.S. export controls. It was forced to lớn agree to lớn an expensive settlement with U.S. authorities. When ZTE flouted that settlement, the U.S. government banned American firms from supplying ZTE with parts, including the Qualcomm chips it needs. This might have driven ZTE out of business if President Trump had not swapped a lighter penalty for concessions in his trade fight with Trung Quốc.

More recently, the U.S. government blacklisted the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. Corporate America had expected the United States to ban Huawei from selling khổng lồ domestic markets. Many in the business community, however, didn’t anticipate the decision to restrict the export of U.S. technology khổng lồ Huawei, putting the firm’s very existence in danger and injecting uncertainty into lớn global supply chains. Huawei estimated that more than 1,200 U.S. firms would thua contracts with it. Google has warned that it will not provide Android to new Huawei phones, & Microsoft temporarily stopped selling Huawei laptops in its online store. This has led Trung Quốc khổng lồ threaten to constrain its sales of essential rare-earth metals to U.S. giải pháp công nghệ companies & khổng lồ start building its own blackdanh mục of foreign firms. FedEx is at risk of being put on that danh sách, because the Chinese government claims that the company knowingly rerouted Huawei packages destined for China from other countries in Asia lớn the United States. U.S. manufacturers are frantically checking their supply chains khổng lồ identify Chinese partners that might be subject lớn the new economic tensions, while financial firms are asking whether they want lớn orient themselves toward the United States or Trung Quốc. Everyone fears the worst is yet to come, because Trump has “ordered” U.S. companies to lớn immediately find alternatives to Chinese suppliers, và other U.S. policy makers are asking whether America needs to lớn “decouple” its economy from China’s. In October 2019 the U.S. government blacklisted an additional 28 Chinese firms for their role in human rights violations against Muslyên ổn minorities in China. As of this writing, the U.S. Justice Department was trying lớn bloông xã the completion of a $300 million submarine cable that would connect Hong Kong & Los Angeles—và had already mostly been laid by Google, Facebook, và Dr. Peng Telecom và Media Group, a Chinese company—on the grounds of national security.

A New Game

As other powerful states respond to lớn và even model the U.S. strategy, a war is quietly being waged through manufacturing ties và business relationships. U.S. officials are concerned that Chinese-produced components could be compromised & then deployed in surveillance activities or even sabotage. Chinese leaders fear that the United States will use the ZTE playbook against more Chinese firms. They worry that America sees Chinese economic strength as a security threat và will do everything it can khổng lồ hamper & even cripple the Chinese economy. This is one reason they’re trying to lớn accelerate their ability khổng lồ develop & manufacture advanced chips: so that they won’t be at the mercy of the U.S. government.

Although the European Union has officially identified China as a rival & begun to lớn pay much closer attention lớn Chinese acquisitions, it is still far less belligerent toward China than the United States is. Indeed, it’s beginning to lớn create ways lớn work around U.S. economic power và perhaps even oppose it. For instance, Europeans have sầu started khổng lồ experiment with alternative sầu financial channels that are less exposed to lớn U.S. pressure. In 2019 the governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom jointly created an international barter system, known as Instex, which offers an alternative payment method that circumvents U.S. sanctions on Iran. Instex has had teething problems, and trade between Iran và Europe is negligible, but Europe’s experiment may give it the tools khổng lồ counteract future U.S. sanctions against much more economically important countries, lượt thích Russia.

Disputes can quickly escalate. When Japan pushed baông xã against South Korean claims for World War II reparations by blocking the export khổng lồ Korea of key chemicals needed by the semiconductor & manufacturing industries, it sent chills through the boardrooms at Samsung & LG. South Korea, in turn, has threatened khổng lồ retaliate by cutting off supplies of heating oil to Japan. Businesses are being forced inkhổng lồ involuntary service in purely political disputes.

Understanding Your Exposure

The firms located at choke points are the most directly at risk. Google’s Android operating system, Visa’s payment channel, FedEx’s courier và logistics services, and Qualcomm’s chips are all hugely profitable because they sit at the center of vast global networks everyone wants access lớn. Their market control has always been a gold mine. It’s now also a political vulnerability, creating dependencies that powerful governments may want to exploit for national security purposes.

Companies that lie at emerging choke points are likely khổng lồ also come under pressure. Behind the U.S. case against Huawei is a straightforward fear: that America will thảm bại control over 5G networks and the internet of things. U.S. security would be threatened in a world where everyone depends on Chinese communications công nghệ. Building a choke point, knowingly or not, puts you in the crosshairs.

When governments target choke-point companies, other businesses can get caught in the crossfire. The U.S. ban on Huawei reverberated throughout the firm’s supply chain. The U.S. chipmaker Skyworks, which got 12% of its sales from Huawei, was blindsided; its stochồng fell sharply & took weeks lớn recover. Upstream, political uncertainty is leading all telecommunications firms to lớn delay 5G investments. The CEO of Sweden’s Tele2, Anders Nilsson, put it bluntly: “Decisions are postponed. This is not only Huawei; this is all vendors.”

As China retaliates, the economic fallout is likely khổng lồ spread. Cisco’s CEO, Chuông xã Robbins, says the anti-American backlash in Trung Quốc is hurting his company: “We’re being uninvited to lớn bid. We are not even being allowed to participate anymore.” Tertiary companies that are neither choke-point providers nor directly up- or downstream will also be affected. A slowdown in 5G’s rollout will reshape entire markets for Mobile equipment, audiovisual offerings, and smart, connected products.

Can’t diversification help companies avoid this new khung of risk? Firms don’t lượt thích relying on a single supplier anyway, since that supplier might raise prices, defect to competitors, or go bust. But diversification won’t mitigate political risk if all the suppliers of, say, a critical component are in the same country or dependent on the same choke point. Instead, executives should think about developing alternative network hubs or in-house or in-country capabilities that allow them khổng lồ minimize vulnerabilities. After the ZTE incident, Huawei saw that it was at risk và stockpiled its U.S.-made components. Increased redundancy may also reduce vulnerability.

Doing an analysis of the risk your specific sector faces is helpful too. The Trump administration (và, ultimately, its successors) will probably weaponize a host of networks, but some sectors are more exposed than others are. In recent disputes with Đài Loan Trung Quốc, the United States has focused on technologies like telecommunications, drones, và surveillance systems, all of which are viewed as having both commercial & military applications. But less-obvious sectors are increasingly vulnerable. It is unlikely that Beijing Kunlun Tech expected the United States khổng lồ request that it divest Grindr, a gay dating network, but if it had thought about how personal information could be used for blackmail, it might have foreseen the possibility. Companies that did not think of their sectors as politically risky—perhaps because they were producing relatively innocuous products such as camera-enabled doorbells—should have sầu paid attention when U.S. defense legislation targeted Hikvision & its surveillance giải pháp công nghệ in early 2018. The U.S. intelligence community has also been issuing warnings about Huawei for several years. Executives dismiss these “weak signals” at their own peril.

Mitigating the Risk

Identifying risks is only the first step. As the global economy moves away from open trade, companies need new strategies và relationships that balance economic efficiency with security. Firms essentially have three choices: collaborate, resist, or educate.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the U.S. government sought private sector help. A group of firms running network choke points, most notably FedEx, volunteered khổng lồ work with it. FedEx CEO Fred Smith argued at the time, “All we are trying to bởi is to protect our assets và not have sầu our assets be used for bad purposes.” This approach can have great benefits, but it may pose problems in a world where cooperating with one government may provoke another government lớn target you. HSBC, for instance, complied with U.S. authorities’ dem& for financial information on Huawei, and now it is at risk of being blacklisted by the Chinese government.

Some firms may be less enthusiastic about cooperation và decide to lớn push bachồng. Apple, for example, is a tempting target. The iPhone operating system is potentially a key hub for surveillance, allowing governments lớn learn what people are saying lớn one another. This is one reason Apple tried to lớn kiến thiết the system khổng lồ make it impossible for anyone—even Apple itself—to lớn access the phones without user passwords. Microsoft, which faces similar pressures from governments that want its data, has responded in a more directly political way. It is spearheading a global initiative known as the Digital Geneva Convention to lớn develop core norms of cybersecurity. The goal is to persuade private companies khổng lồ collectively commit lớn limiting offensive sầu cyberattacks—including those by the U.S. government. Already over 100 firms have signed the initiative’s Cybersecurity Tech Accord. As tensions heat up between the United States & Đài Loan Trung Quốc và Russia, businesses with control of economic choke points will need khổng lồ consider how they can work together khổng lồ depoliticize their roles.

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Once it was the places that globalization hadn’t yet reached that were politically dangerous. Now new political risks are found right at the heart of the global economy. They’re coming from the very infrastructure that facilitates global business, which powerful states are weaponizing. Executives who fail to lớn understvà this new world are likely lớn run inlớn serious trouble.