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How the U.S.-China Tech War is Changing CES 2020

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As CES 2020 continues to unfold in Las Vegas, so does the tech war between the United States and China. The ongoing conflict has led to some Chinese companies to miss the event. 

Major Chinese companies such as Alibaba, Tencent, and have skipped out on the world’s largest tech event. At the same time, China’s focus on major technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G will be showcased.

CES 2020 has a total of 4,500 companies taking part, and around 1,000 of them are from China. That is less than the one-third that were Chinese in 2018 and the one-fourth in 2019. 

This comes as the U.S.-China trade war continues to affect many aspects of the tech industry. However, the two nations are expected to sign a “Phase One” trade agreement on Jan. 15.

China’s trade delegation is expected to travel to Washington for a total of four days, beginning on January 14. Advocates are hoping that an agreement can bring an end to the trade conflict between the globe’s two biggest economies. 

The delegation will be led by Vice-Premier Liu He. U.S. President Donald Trump has said that it is a “major win” for the country and himself, while the Chinese have been more quiet. According to Trump, he will visit Beijing at a later date. 

Within the CES 2020 expo, there is a Chinese consulate and commerce ministry-backed station offering free legal help to Chinese attendees, due to current issues revolving around intellectual property rights. Those attendees have been told to carry documents certifying those rights in order to avoid trouble. This comes as IP theft is one of the major issues within the trade negotiations between the two nations. 

Since the shift in U.S. policy against Chinese tech companies in 2019, China has been seeking to establish technological independence from the U.S. According to a January 6 Eurasia Group report on top risks for 2020, this could cause serious issues within the international community. 

“The decision by China and the United States to decouple in the technology sphere is the single most impactful development for globalization since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” the report said.

One of the reasons for the decrease in Chinese participation at CES 2020 is that it is harder to obtain U.S. visas, due to the ongoing conflict. 

“Our company decided not to attend this year because we knew it would take forever to get our visa, if they don't get rejected after all,” according to a Chinese A.I. chip startup founder.

Only OnePlus and Huawei, two of the top domestic smartphone makers in China, are taking part in CES. Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo have skipped the event. 

One of the major areas of interest within CES is artificial intelligence (AI), and China is the global leader. The nation’s top AI startups, including Megvii, SenseTime, and Yitu, are absent. Those companies are listed on a U.S. government trade restricted “entity list.” They were put on the list due to the ongoing persecution of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province, which they are alleged to have a role in. 

Another two companies that were put on the list are the voice recognition company iFlyTek and surveillance company Hikvision. They are not present at the event this year. 

Even with the ongoing issues and several Chinese companies being absent from the event, there are many that are attending. Some Chinese participation at CES 2020 comes from A.I. firms ForwardX Robotics and RaSpect Intelligence Inspection Limited, Huawei, Baidu, Lenovo, Haier, Hisense, DJI, and ZTE USA.


Alex McFarland is an AI journalist and writer exploring the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has collaborated with numerous AI startups and publications worldwide.