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China’s insidious digital diplomacy


(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 29, 2019, China’s President Xi Jinping attend a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Under the garb of agreements regarding Digital Silk Road Initiative (DSRI), China has been using the members to pursue its hidden agenda in the digital world. Currently, China has agreements with at least 16 countries under its DSRI initiative.


On paper, these agreements help signatories improve artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, telecommunications, and other hi – tech fields. Under the guise of a mutually beneficial relationship, China has dug its claws deep into the critical infrastructure of these countries. Unfortunately, many developing countries do not have enough resources to go for an alternative, and at the same time are desperate for low cost improvements. China exploits the helpless state of these nations to further it’s own selfish agenda. Now China controls the decision making groups of these nations thereby giving it an edge though through covert means. However, the world understands China’s intentions and counter measures are under process.

Firstly, China exports surveillance technology to these countries which helps the governments to suppress dissent. Hence, China exports its own authoritarian ideology through tech transfer to prove that its own system of governance is superior. These governments get cheap technology to spy upon dissenting leaders and take them to task if need be.
DSRI countries have already been taught how to monitor and censor the Internet. Additionally, under the Chinese intelligence laws, data stored on Chinese servers has to be submitted if requested for by the Chinese authorities, violating the sovereignty of participating nations.


There’s a high probability China can collect data on political elites through its tech infrastructure and use it to blackmail leaders of participating nations into making decisions that favour China. Chinese access to international data will result in increased control over Chinese diaspora, cyber warfare and even weaponizing artificial intelligence. It is not difficult to anticipate that when China falls – and it will – it will take these nations down with it.

China digital diplomacy also aims to gather enough support so that Chinese standards become a global phenomenon. This will allow China to dominate the tech sector and dictate its own terms. Unfortunately for China, most of the developed countries have come together to take a strong stand against its coercive actions. There’s a good chance a new group – T10 – might take form to specifically counter China in the tech sector. It will act as an alternative to China’s cheap tech and also strengthen cyber security of participating nations against Chinese cyber attacks. If this happens, China’s dream of ruling the digital world will come crashing down.


The push for digital diplomacy has come to the forefront only after Chinese 5G equipment was banned by multiple developed countries including US and Australia. Even a long term partner like Malaysia is becoming wary of the downsides of Chinese digital silk road. China has already lost its reputation in international curves, and the degradation is most likely to continue. Once exposed, China’s DSRI may come crashing down as participating countries withdraw one by one after knowing the pitfalls. But for that the expected T10 group must help these countries to come out of umbrella and scheming designs of China.


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