In March 1989, the British-born scientist Tim Berners-Lee entered the World Wide Web on the computer, the familiar WWW, probably did not think about what would happen in 30 years.
According to the statistics of the International Telecommunication Union, at the end of 2018, the total number of Internet users worldwide was 3.9 billion. In other words, more than half of the world’s people are using the Internet. The amount of data exchanged over the network has increased 15 times in the past 10 years and will double again in the next 5 years.
Looking back over the past 30 years, Japan was once the world’s leading computer and mobile phone producer, but today’s Japanese companies have long been out of production with computers and mobile phones. Not only that, the world’s largest IT companies, such as the US GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), China’s BAT + JD (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, Jingdong), also has nothing to do with Japan. Going to Japan to find an IT service company, you can find some like Amazon’s Le Cool Day, or like the salt fish net mercari, but with Chinese netizens say these companies, basically no one knows.
China’s BAT+JD is trying to get out of the country, but currently it is not comparable to GAFA in the 3.9 billion netizens. On March 20, 2019, the European Commission announced a fine of 1.49 billion euros (about 11.4 billion yuan) against Google. This is not the first time that a US IT company has been fined, and in the future it may be fined for US companies because of illegal advertising and disclosure of personal information. American companies are also very well-behaved and pay fines on time. After all, fines and corporate profits are a bit of a slap in the face, and it is effortless to pay. Chinese companies do not have this “honor”.
Japan also wants to start with GAFA, but it is still relatively restrained and does not dare to move. But public opinion has begun to move, preparing to introduce “data tax” and using antitrust laws to suppress US companies.
Data taxes can directly suppress US companies. Because of the proportion of the number of Internet users in the world of platform companies in 2018, the United States took 69% of the market, 26% of China, 3% of Japan, and 2% of Germany. The introduction of taxes is mainly directed at the United States and China. However, Chinese companies have not yet gone abroad. Therefore, it can be said that it is necessary to suppress US companies and expand their efforts in the future to include Chinese companies. How can American companies resist? How should American politics respond to the suppression from Europe and Japan? In the future, it will be a good show.
The introduction of taxes, even if it is only a tax on foreign companies, is not a simple matter. The main thing that Japan wants to use now is the anti-monopoly law. In addition to Apple, GAFA is really a monopoly. Not only the monopoly, but also the use of its own dominant position, there is infringement in the use of corporate and personal information. In particular, some platforms have a monopoly position in the market, and their operations are very opaque, which may damage the interests of consumers. For these, the laws of the past have not been adequately managed, and now Japan can only use the way of expanding the scope of interpretation to suppress US companies.
During the G20 summit in Osaka in June this year, Japan is likely to make the discussion of data economy one of the topics. In this regard, Japan and the EU countries have a lot of consensus. But Japanese politicians seem to be hesitant in their hearts, fearing that the United States will fight back in a more awkward way. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States in late April, the data economy should be an important part of the big report to President Trump. If Trump expresses his firm opposition, the issue of the data economy will be lost. After all, challenging US hegemony is still very difficult in Japan today.