Opinion: Webinar on The Digital Silk Road and China’s Belted Road Initiative

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Hosted by David Day, the director of the National Association of District Export Councils (NADEC) and Trade Policy committee co-chair and Dr. Christina Luhn, NADEC director

Hi there! I’m The Digital Diplomat …

I hope you’re staying healthy amidst the pandemic and the many sudden changes we’re continuously undergoing.

Let’s get started! Like many of you, I’ve been plugging into a number of virtual events, conferences, meetings and all the above.

A few weeks ago, the directors of the NADEC recently hosted a webinar series to educate the public on China’s Belt Road Initiative. The presenters demonstrated via a well-thought out slideshow the methods that China’s government currently uses to establish itself as an authoritarian leader within the global economy, especially within the technology sector.

The Digital Silk Road, also known as the Belt Road Initiative, is the crown jewel of China’s Communist government, which was enshrined into their National Constitution as of October 2017. This power move basically infuses their military, government, civilians, and business sectors into one big business model. In doing so, China is looking to become the world leader by spearheading the norms of economic commerce, thereby dominating the business both within the public and private sectors. An example of this would be Huawei, a leader in advanced technology, which has currently surpassed Apple (but is behind Samsung) in revenue and cellular phone sales. Based on the China Business Model, this means that companies like Huawei (97 countries to be exact as of the date of the webinar) are in the back pocket of the Chinese government, and thus an extension of China’s influence as a world power. As a result of this business model, the FCC labeled Huawei, along with several other Chinese countries, a national threat to cybersecurity within the United States. Besides implementing AI software that can potentially “spy” and control the availability, as well as the distribution of content, China is already looking to build 5G towers that only support Chinese networks. According to the presenters, to prevent China’s expansion into the digital sector, there must be regulations on technology companies to offer secure communications networks, and better US diplomatic relationships with its allies to ensure that China does not threaten international privacy and security.

Now, let’s break it down a little further. The US is not the only country affected by China’s Belt Road Initiative. About 80% of the world’s energy reserves are “tied up” in the belted road, meaning China’s focus on developing countries ensures that they will have access to the data which is the most important. For example, something like 90% of African countries are a part of the Belt Road Initiative.

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