President Donald Trump's order Wednesday blocking China-backed Bridge Capital Partners' $1.3 billion plan to acquire Lattice Semiconductor Corp. ( (LSCC) - Get Report) on grounds of national security resounded to a rare echo from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
On both sides of the Atlantic, political leaders were taking aim at Chinese acquisitions of sensitive technology. Trump was exercising a right of veto he already holds. Juncker, in his State of the Union address to the European Parliament, was cautiously demanding the same right, which, as yet, is beyond his grasp. Juncker would love to establish a European takeover-vetting agency similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that recommended the Lattice move to the White House.
Juncker and Trump are not obvious soul-mates; like many European Union leaders the EC president is more often primly disapproving of Trump's America First sloganeering. But China's vast appetite for European technology and know-how has created a new level of nervousness about national security and the loss of the West's technological edge and intellectual property. The political noise in Europe and the U.S. is eerily reminiscent of both Cold War era fears of Soviet espionage and the panic over jobs and IP sparked by Japan's export-led industrial resurgence of the 1970s and 1980s.
China is threatening not only because it is an export powerhouse and a voracious - - and not always law-abiding - - acquirer of IP, but also because of its rising geopolitical power and influence, which put it in increasingly antagonistic competition with America and the West. After all - occasional bursts of anti-Americanism aside - few European leaders are as vocal in condemning U.S. acquisitions of European companies, even though China accounts for a far smaller proportion of inbound investment than U.S. buyers.