China’s Digital Ambitions: A Global Strategy to Supplant the Liberal Order

Book edited by Emily de La Bruyère, Doug Strub, and Jonathon Marek: “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has diagnosed that the emergence of data as a factor of production is catalyzing a new industrial revolution. Chinese policymakers view this industrial revolution as a competitive opportunity to leapfrog to leadership of the international system. Beijing’s global digital strategy rests on seizing this opportunity by competing to control international data, its movement, and, by extension, the production, distribution, and consumption of resources and ideas internationally. 

A new global digital architecture is taking shape. It is both disrupting the existing hierarchy and creating the foundation for a new kind of geopolitical power. China intends to define this digital architecture by building its physical infrastructure and corresponding virtual networks and platforms, setting the technical standards that govern them, and shaping the emerging global digital governance regime. In doing so, it is cementing Chinese control over the international flow of data—and, as a result, resources.

The digital revolution promises a new era of opportunity, technological advancement, and freedom of movement and thought. However, it also entails unprecedented dangers: the possibility of digitally empowered authoritarianism that reaps profits as it asserts control, a monopolistic network power that squeezes out competition in favor of a rent-based system of political and commercial hegemony, and the capacity to shape, alter, and amplify information at a network effect pace and scale. China’s digital ambitions threaten the ability of companies to compete fairly in the international marketplace, of information to circulate freely, and of governments to defend themselves. China’s success would undermine the existing global system as well as the norms, freedoms, prosperity, and stability that it affords. But China’s success in achieving its digital ambitions is not a foregone conclusion—if, that is, liberal democracies and market economies stand up to Beijing’s challenge. They must work together to promote and defend a digital architecture that can resist illiberal, non-market control and protect the free flow of information. This will be the defining battleground of international relations for the decades ahead…(More)”.