Even if these poll findings are as off as many of the surveys of the 2020 election vote were, they’d still be pretty astounding. After years of multinational companies all over the world (including and perhaps especially in the United States), proclaiming that promoting innovation requires ever greater cooperation with partners across borders, General Electric’s (GE) latest annual survey of business views on the subject turned up strong support for what it calls a protectionist perspective.
It’s definitely something to keep in mind the next time you hear the China-coddling corporate Offshoring Lobby insist that a major U.S. economic decoupling from the People’s Republic would cut America off from an increasingly important source of technological progress, or the Open Borders-friendly Cheap Labor Lobby claim that restricting the inflow of foreign technology workers would deny them and the national economy as a whole access to many of the world’s best talent.
GE has been conducting these studies since 2011, and this year has looked at the subject twice – in January and September. In toto, the views of corporate innovation executives from 22 countries ranging from Kenya to the United States were sampled. (The January poll reported results from 22 countries and the September follow up from ten.)
Among the most startling results:
>This past January, fully 66 percent of the U.S. executives who responded considered that the country is “self-sufficient, and does not need to rely on other countries to innovate.” By September, this figure had climbed to 78 percent.
>In China, the comparable figures were 56 percent and 52 percent, respectively – meaning that, at least according to this GE study, China’s confidence in its technological autonomy has declined.
>Going global, in September, 69 percent of respondents reporting that their national governments had become more techno-protectionist in the last six months said that these policies had “a positive impact on innovation.” Viewed from the opposite end of the policy spectrum, only 41 percent of respondents reporting that their national governments had become less protectionist during this period considered this shift to have benefited innovation.
>In September, nearly all (94 percent) of the respondents from that month’s smaller sample agreed that “a protectionist stance is important to help address the major economic problems in this country created by the pandemic” and an equal percentage believed that such policies are “important to help the domestic economy recover.”
One reason for this support of techno-protectionism might be the widespread belief that it’s increasingly become the way of the world. Fully half of the September respondents told GE that “their government has taken a more protectionist stance during the COVID-19 pandemic” with only 13 percent reporting movement in the opposite direction and 34 percent perceiving no change.
At the same time, the GE poll revealed a deep ambivalence in business ranks about the virtues of tech self-sufficiency. Notably, 86 percent of the September respondents agreed that “More partnerships across countries will help drive progress on innovation.” And half worried that “Restrictions on movement of people/goods/services” were “a major cause for concern regarding innovation progress.”
One possible reason for the continued belief in the value of international collaboration: seemingly strong confidence that techno-nationalism (at least in their home market) will be a flash in the pan. Only 22 percent believed that such protectionism would last more than three years.
These results hardly exhaust the list of unexpected findings from the GE report. In fact, you’ll be seeing some more of them on RealityChek this week. But the discrepancy between them and the almost unamimous endorsement for the free movement of technological knowledge across borders from the corporate community deserves much more attention, and represents evidence that many of the globalist public positions taken by these executives’ companies and businesses stem from concern not for for the national interest, but for their own already healthy bottom lines.