Cloudflare TV

🎂 David Gosset & Alex Dyner Fireside Chat

Presented by Alex Dyner, David Gosset
Originally aired on 

2020 marks Cloudflare’s 10th birthday. To celebrate this milestone, we are hosting a series of fireside chats with business and industry leaders all week long.

In this Cloudflare TV segment, Alex Dyner will host a fireside chat with David Gosset, Founder of the Europe-China Forum.

Watch more Fireside Chats 🎂

Birthday Week
Fireside Chat

Transcript (Beta)

Hi everyone and welcome to another special birthday week fireside chat on Cloudflare TV.

I'm very pleased to have with us one of the world's foremost experts on Chinese global relations, Mr.

David Gosset. Hi David. Hi Alex, it's great to be on Cloudflare TV.

Well thanks very much for for doing this and joining us in this special week.

David, you're a sinologist, you're a global affairs analyst, you're an international relations expert, you've written extensively about Chinese economic, political, cultural, and economic transformation and importantly also its impact on the 21st century.

Before we get into that, two questions I wanted to ask you.

First, what has surprised you about the past 10 years with respect to China and technology and the Internet and then where can we expect to be 10 years from now?

Thank you Alex and first of all I would like to wish you and your colleagues and the company a happy birthday.

Thank you. Many things have been happening indeed for the past 10 years but if you wish, for me what I keep in mind, it has been the confirmation these 10 years of what I call the Chinese renaissance, the coming back of China in a position of centrality.

Something by the way that China considers to be natural because if you look at the world before the industrial revolution, well China was in a position of centrality and then China has been marginalized because China did not catch the train of the industrial revolution but China is coming back and by the way it leads us immediately to technology because one of the reasons why China has been marginalized in the 19th century, it is exactly because it did not catch, the country did not catch this train of the industrial revolution.

Therefore China does not want to miss the next big things in terms of technology.

You see, you are asking now for the 10 coming years, I think that it's very difficult to predict.

I know that in this kind of context we love to discuss about the world in 2030, 2050 and so on and so forth but very difficult to predict.

Let me give you a couple of examples, Alex. Who predicted the collapse of the USSR in 1991?

Who predicted the Arab Spring more recently?

And by the way, last but not least, who predicted this pandemic? Remember what we were saying in December 2019 or even January of 2020?

Well nobody saw the pandemic coming so I think one needs to learn how to be modest and certainly China humbles the analysts.

However, I think that one of the effects of the pandemic, which is a tragedy of course, the pandemic as such, is the fact that I observe the acceleration of China's coming back in a position of centrality.

China is going to grow this year 2.5%, 3% but it is exceptional by contrast with the negative growth we are going to have in so many countries.

So it is an historical moment, Alex, and I would love also the viewers to think about what so many people were saying in February of 2020.

You remember that in so many media we had this idea that it was for China the Chernobyl moment, meaning that so many analysts, they were thinking that the coming collapse of China was coming because of this pandemic.

Wuhan was locked down, Hunan was locked down. Well, actually, clearly, and I am also happy to share with you, Alex, that early February 2020 I wrote on this idea to counter this argument, to say look please, you don't understand the dimensions of the Chinese renaissance.

It is much more deeper and profound than you think and this pandemic, it was an epidemic at that moment, is not going to affect the Chinese renaissance.

But what I was not expecting in February is this acceleration of China's coming back and that's what I think at the moment.

But predict anything is very difficult because we live in a world which has never been so complex and I think complexity is increasing because of the combination of demographic changes, technological changes, and Cloudflare is in the middle of it.

What I call also power diffusion and, of course, geopolitical changes.

And when you combine these four trends, you have a mega trend of increasing complexity and the corollary of this increasing complexity is a world in which it becomes even more difficult to predict anything.

So I would say we, and especially you as very important business leaders, one needs to be ready to expect the unexpected.

So that would be my answer to your question. I thought you were going to give us the answer, so we'll have to leave that for another conversation for the answer.

So one thing you have said is you've talked about global interdependence and you're quite optimistic about it, about the world coming together.

At least you have been in the past.

There's a lot that's happened, as you mentioned, over the past six months.

Do you still see that? I mean, obviously what we do as a company is we make the Internet work better, we make it safer, make it more reliable.

We very much take that on a global level. China has, depending on the data, you look at 20 to 25% of the world's Internet population.

So it's a very important topic for us and it sits within the broader context of what you're talking about from an economic geopolitical standpoint.

Do you see this sort of, what you've talked about, the interdependence and the coming together despite some of the headwinds that we're seeing recently?

Yes, Alex, I think this is a very important question.

If you wish, my fundamental assumption here is that I believe in progress.

I believe in progress and I think it takes time, but we are progressing.

I mean, we had something before the Homo sapiens 300,000 years ago, and I think we have been witnessing a lot of progress, especially, by the way, since 1945.

And we owe this progress to very wise people who were able in 1944, 1945, to build this multilateral system we have now, Bretton Woods, the United Nations, and all this, Alex, of course, it is not perfect.

We need to perfect this system, but I think not to abandon it.

And the temptation to go back to protectionism, unilateralism, this is, in my mind, problematic.

And one needs to think together with our Chinese friends, with your European friends, you know, that come from Paris, but of course, also fundamental with Washington DC, you are in San Francisco at the moment, but here, when I think about politics, I think about Washington DC, to see how we build together a better global governance for the 21st century.

And my fear at the moment, Alex, and I think it's a fact, interdependence, it's a reality, we will have more and more interdependence, but you have some personalities who try to decouple, especially this decoupling between the US and China.

And I think this is very dangerous, because here I would like to present, if you wish, a terrible, vicious circle.

One has this issue of decoupling because there is mistrust.

Mistrust brings decoupling, but the more decoupling you have, the more mistrust you have.

Or you cannot build trust when you don't collaborate, when you don't collaborate, when you don't talk to each other.

And this is very, very worrisome. It is why some analysts, they are already using this terminology of a new form of Cold War.

But, Alex, it is a danger. There is the risk that we end up in such a configuration with risks of escalation, but it is not exactly my interpretation, because I think a company like yours, by the way, shows that decoupling might happen in some areas, but what you are doing is exactly the opposite.

You engage with the Chinese Renaissance, and I think you are right.

And to go back to this idea of a new Cold War, I think it's only rhetorical.

Well, I hope I am right, because what you see between the European Union and China is really a lot of efforts to work together.

Therefore, what would worry me very much would be a kind of antagonism between China and the West.

What I see is only, I would say, friction, tensions, misunderstandings between China and the US.

But at the same time, another part of the West, Europe, is trying to work in a constructive way with China for trade, for a reform of multilateralism, and for climate change, Alex, because this is absolutely important.

We have the immediate issue of the pandemic, but I think one should not forget the fundamental problem of the protection of our planet.

So, yes, Alex, I am, despite the difficulties we see around, I am cautiously optimistic.

But one needs to work on it, and in any case, let us never, ever take peace for granted.

Peace is something that we build at each second, I would say, and we need, in that situation, even more collaboration.

And what Cloudflare is doing, I have to say, is exactly the right thing.

But, of course, and also, because I come back to my point on geopolitical change, Alex, I think that we live in a world which is especially complex, because this world is not only about multipolarity.

It's also about what I would call a multi-conceptual world.

You have the Western understanding of modernity, but I think you have the Muslim understanding of modernity, the Indian understanding of modernity, and also the Chinese understanding of what it means to be modern.

And then we will have also to reconcile these differences, and we will have to, let's say, to adjust to a world in which, well, we need to harmonize differences, but it does not mean that we will end up in uniformity.

And therefore, all this is very complex, but with time, I think we will get there.

And technology, the Internet, of course, is a reality.

By the way, Alex, what you are doing, being in the middle of what is happening in the cyberspace, is extremely important, significant, and sensitive.

Why? I talk now to you, please allow me as, let's say, analyst of international relations.

Up to the Internet, we were living in a world with four strategic dimensions.

Of course, land, always very significant to have a large territory.

This is great for the US. The sea, the maritime dimension, of course, same thing.

The US is blessed from that perspective, because you have the Atlantic, but you are also a Pacific power.

And this is very rare, by the way. China has only one maritime facet, if I would say, toward the Pacific.

You add, of course, to land, sea, air, and since the Sputnik in 1957, of course, space.

And we have added cyberspace, by the way, which complicates the equation of power, but everything which is happening in the cyberspace at the moment is of the absolutely utmost significance.

But also very sensitive, because it is about power. And by the way, Alex, I was talking about multipolarity, but I think the reality of the matter is that at the moment, this is not exactly the world of the G20.

This is a G2 when you think about the cyberspace.

This is China and the United States of America, unfortunately for Europe, which is a big problem for Europe, the capacity to have an impact in the present in the cyberspace, because this is a key dimension of power in the 21st century.

And it is also very important not to end up with two Internets.

One needs to have a continuity between the Chinese Internet and the American Internet.

And on all the issues that you discuss every day, data, VR, AR, AI, and so on, one needs to have a constant conversation with our Chinese friends.

Yeah, you've talked a lot. We think about that a lot, the Internet, one Internet, two Internets, whether it's a capital I Internet or a lowercase Internet, because it's a small point, but it actually has implications.

And you've talked about communication as being so important.

And as you were talking about Europe and the European perspective, which strikes me as your perspective is quite different.

The European Chinese dynamic is quite different from the American Chinese dynamic.

Why is that? I'm sure you've thought about that. And you're a French native and spent a lot of time in China, know the United States quite well.

Yes. Yes, Alex, it's a fascinating question.

But look, you really have some deep commonalities between China and Europe when you think about it.

First of all, first of all, these are two Eurasian civilizations.

You can walk from Europe to China.

That's what Marco Polo did. You know, he spent two years, he spent two years to come to China, but he came to China.

So this, it means a lot, the history of the ancient Silk Roads.

It's so important that you know that one of the main diplomatic initiative of President Xi Jinping is the Belt and Road.

So this idea to reignite the ancient Silk Roads and the Belt, this is more connectivity through Eurasia.

And of course, you see that Europe is the other edge. Having said that, Alex, in the Chinese strategic brain, strategic map in the 21st century, the other edge of the new Silk Roads is not Europe.

Actually, it is Africa. And there is this Afro-Eurasian axis, which is very interesting to analyze.

So that would be the first commonality.

Second commonality, I think the two sides, Europe and China are especially sensitive to long -term history, long-term history.

And Alex, we are having this conversation among friends, and it is true that when I am in the US, I go to historical places.

Well, what history means very often in the US, I simplify, but I think by and large, it's correct.

It is 18th century. Well, from a Chinese perspective, 18th century is the day before yesterday.

And same thing for European perspective.

So I think it creates a subtle context in which mutual understanding is easier between Europe and China.

But having said that, when you look at the 20th century, you have also...

When you look at China-US relations, it's a relationship made of hills and valleys.

And it is true that at the moment, we are in a deep valley.

But again, I am very much convinced that we are going to have a rebound.

By the way, I don't think it is...

We have a very important moment on November the 3rd. Whatever happens on November the 3rd, I do not anticipate an improvement in the relationship between China and the US in the forthcoming years.

It will take some time, and it will take some creativity.

But I think that we will have hills again, we will have ups again in the China-US relationship.

Because on both sides, you have people who realize the fact that when China and the US work together, it is good for the Chinese, it is good for the US, but it is also absolutely indispensable for the world.

And here, Alex, I talk to you as a European.

And all the fundamental problems we have...

For those who are watching that are less familiar with China than you are, what is a key takeaway that you want to leave people with?

Thank you, Alex. And you are right, it's amazing to Zoom Shanghai, San Francisco.

This is why why we cannot not believe in progress, to come back to the point.

Now, Alex, here what I would like to say is that the idea that very often we see in the West about a China who would be unable to innovate, it's a complete false idea.

And since we are talking about the Internet, I hope that the viewers look at what China is doing in science and technology.

For example, in quantum, the applications of quantum physics, quantum communication, and of course, quantum computing.

And it would be very interesting to have a discussion conversation with our Chinese friends on what's going to happen with quantum Internet.

And if people are not convinced by what I am saying, I invite them to read the book of Joseph Needham on science and civilization in China, 14 volumes.

So it's a large book in which Needham shows that before the Ming dynasty, so before the 15th century, actually, China invented almost everything and was at the vanguard of science and technology.

And this is very important because it is very much present in the mind of our Chinese friends today.

So please, China is also in a capacity to innovate, and it will be also destructive innovation.

And I'm going to mention also shamelessly, because you won't mention it yourself, that I'm also looking forward to reading your book, China in the World, which you mentioned to me a little while ago is coming out in October.

So I'm really looking forward to reading it. David, thank you so much for spending time with us, especially during this week.

This was super interesting to hear your view.

Thank you, Alex, and happy birthday. Thank you.

So the real privilege of working at Mozilla is that we're a mission-driven organization.

And what that means is that before we do things, we ask what's good for the users as opposed to what's going to make the most money.

Mozilla's values are similar to Cloudflare's.

They care about enabling the web for everybody in a way that is secure, in a way that is private, and in a way that is trustworthy.

We've been collaborating on improving the protocols that help secure connections between browsers and websites.

Mozilla and Cloudflare collaborated on a wide range of technologies.

The first place we really collaborated was the new TLS 1.3 protocol, and then we followed that up with QUIC and DNS server HTTPS, and most recently, the new Firefox private network.

DNS is core to the way that everything on the Internet works.

It's a very old protocol, and it's also in plain text, meaning that it's not encrypted.

And this is something that a lot of people don't realize. You can be using SSL and connecting securely to websites, but your DNS traffic may still be unencrypted.

When Mozilla was looking for a partner for providing encrypted DNS, Cloudflare was a natural fit.

The idea was that Cloudflare would run the server piece of it, and Mozilla would run the client piece of it, and the consequence would be that we protect DNS traffic for anybody who used Firefox.

Cloudflare was a great partner with this because they were really willing early on to implement the protocol, stand up a trusted recursive resolver, and create this experience for users.

They were strong supporters of it. One of the great things about working with Cloudflare is their engineers are crazy fast.

So the time between we decide to do something, and we write down the barest protocol sketch, and they have it running in their infrastructure, is a matter of days to weeks, not a matter of months to years.

There's a difference between standing up a service that one person can use, or 10 people can use, and a service that everybody on the Internet can use.

When we talk about bringing new protocols to the web, we're talking about bringing it not to millions, not to tens of millions, we're talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people.

Cloudflare has been an amazing partner in the privacy front.

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Really, users are getting two classes of benefits out of our partnership with Cloudflare.

The first is direct benefits. That is, we're offering services to the user that make them more secure, and we're offering them via Cloudflare.

So that's like an immediate benefit these users are getting. The indirect benefit these users are getting is that we're developing the next generation of security and privacy technology, and Cloudflare is helping us do it.

And that will ultimately benefit every user, both Firefox users and every user of the Internet.

We're really excited to work with an organization like Mozilla that is aligned with the user's interests, and in taking the Internet and moving it in a direction that is more private, more secure, and is aligned with what we think the Internet should be.