Why China could win the West’s stupid — and pointless — war over steel

This month, President Trump tweeted, “If you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country!” Sounds great, but maybe he should try that line on his friend Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. Israel doesn’t have any steel mills, but it certainly is a country, focused instead on developing the technologies of the future, not of the past.

.. the world is leaving the Industrial Age and entering a Digital Age of equal significance. The steel mills and coal mines of the past will not shape our future. Instead, efforts to harness control of digital technologies will be the new global race — and one that the West simply can’t afford to lose.

Beijing will be receptive to demands to cut back China’s overcapacity in steel production, as this will benefit the Chinese as well. Producing excessive amounts of steel is costly. But whether China will be ready to agree on the rules of the new global digital order is far more questionable — and far more important.

.. The United States and Europe would work out issues such as technology controls, data trade rules, free data flows and intellectual property rights. There are policy differences on some issues between America and Europe — notably privacy — but the two sides share much in the way of common interests and values. Yet, instead of trying to capture the future by agreeing on digital issues, there is a risk of the allies being trapped in a steel conflict, which bears virtually no relevance to the economic order of tomorrow.

.. The only likely victor in all of this is China. The more that the West divides itself on the issues of the past, the more China will gain leadership on the issues of the future.