Europe has no major social media platforms, he conceded in a seminar at Bruegel, a Brussels research institution, but is doing well in financial technology, robotics and 5G. “It’s not that the E.U. is way behind everyone else,” he said, “but we have challenges.” But Francesca Bria, chair of the Italian National Innovation Fund, argued that Europe risked being squashed between the Chinese state model — which is represented by Huawei, WeChat, Alibaba, Tencent and TikTok, with their state subsidies — and the “big company, big tech surveillance” of the American giants.
“If we fail to regain digital sovereignty,” she said, “we risk becoming a colony caught between the U.S. and China,” with risks to democracy. The weaknesses are stark. The world’s most popular smartphones are made in China, South Korea and the United States. The biggest social media and online shopping platforms come from American and Chinese companies, as do the largest providers of cloud computing and artificial intelligence services.