Silicon Valley just went on sale, at 2 percent off, for anyone in China looking to buy companies here. The recent revaluation of the yuan...
Silicon Valley just went on sale, at 2 percent off, for anyone in China looking to buy companies here.
The recent revaluation of the yuan doesn’t only make Chinese imports slightly more expensive for us. It also makes everything in the United States slightly cheaper for buyers in China.
The timing is crucial, because Chinese technology companies are now reaching the size and maturity where they want to join global markets by acquiring corporations elsewhere.
China doesn’t yet have the clout to go after the biggest and most successful companies in the valley, such as Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle. But almost everyone else is fair game.
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It’s a matter of when, not if, China will start acquiring here.
“I think it’s going to be a big trend, and it’s going to happen soon,” said Daniel Burstein, a partner with Millennium Technology Ventures in New York and a regular visitor to China since 1975.
To get a foot in the door, China might have to overpay as a way of pushing aside concerns about our national security or competitive advantage.
“At the right price, we’ll sell them anything,” Burstein said, only half-joking. He was in the valley recently for a panel discussion on China at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit, held at Stanford University.
Joe Schoendorf of Accel Partners in Palo Alto said China will be both a competitor and a customer for Silicon Valley:
“In 10 years, you’ve got to believe 10 percent of the Fortune 500 are going to be global companies based in China.”
Chinese companies already have made two huge international technology purchases.
TCL, a large television manufacturer, formed a joint venture with Thomson Electronics of France a year ago to essentially take control of Thomson’s TV business — including the historically significant RCA brand name.
Chinese computer maker Lenovo then bought IBM’s personal-computer division. That deal, completed May 1, includes the prestigious ThinkPad line of laptops.
These purchases show China is no longer willing to serve only as Silicon Valley’s screwdriver shop, running assembly lines to put together components designed elsewhere.
The currency revaluation is so small — just a 2 percent shift in the value of the yuan against the dollar — that it won’t by itself significantly alter the complicated relationship between the world’s biggest country in population, China, and the world’s biggest country in gross national product, the United States.
But revaluation could weaken opposition in Washington to China buying U.S. companies, because China’s previous refusal to abandon its fixed currency was often cited as an unfair trade tactic.
Meanwhile, Chinese appliance maker Haier narrowly lost a bid for Maytag. In this case, Whirlpool swooped in with a higher offer.
Silicon Valley went through a wave of fear in the 1970s and 1980s about competition from Japan, as well as the possible dire consequences of Japanese companies buying up assets in the valley. In the long run, we now know, the valley kept innovating and never fell behind.
I’m optimistic enough to believe the same thing will happen with China. A few big, established corporate names in Silicon Valley may become subsidiaries of Chinese giants, but we’ll build yet another generation of startups to take their place.
Mike Langberg is a technology columnist with the
San Jose Mercury News.