The visions of 1984 return to haunt 2004

Was it just me, or did anybody else notice that the press has largely passed by a truly significant event?

An event that in my mind has both the implications and the symbolism to represent the explicit start of the “tipping point” in the balance of economic power between East and West.

I am, of course, referring to the sale of IBM’s PC business to China’s Lenovo. Big Blue, which was once and for some still is, one of the greatest symbols of Western capitalism and corporate muscle, now owned by the world’s present day Orwellian super power? Oh the irony.

IBM, power-brand, undisputed technology leader, the company responsible for the consumerisation of business and domestic computers during the Eighties. A business with its foundations and culture solidly set in the earth of corporate America.

One can only presume it is for this reason, that the Lenovo executives in Beijing have decided that, rather than tear up the roots of these foundations, it will be far easier for them to carry their wireless laptops and pick straws for the corner office in their new upstate New York pad.

I’m unsure how many American employees will share their joy or take up the opportunity to relocate to one of Lenovo’s plants in China, however.

One Lenovo official was quoted as saying that the deal was a dream come true and a matter of national pride. No doubt. And similarly no doubt that behind this deal rests an enormous amount of geo-political and economic manoeuvring on the parts of both the Chinese and US governments. One can only begin to imagine how the Chinese will be reciprocating.

While not the first deal of its kind, it does represent one of the most symbolic in the shifting landscape of the global market. And, of course, it begs the question of what can we next expect in East-West relations? BMW taken over by Toyota? Even more unimaginable, rice and sezuan chicken served up on Air France? OK, now I’ve gone too far.

Maybe now would be the perfect time for Steve Jobs and the folk at Apple to refresh and recut that beautiful ad from the 1984 Super Bowl that introduced the first Mac.

Martin Rowlatt




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