The Dangers Lurking in the Digital One Belt and One Road：Are the Countries Along the Road Aware of the Dangers?
The promotion of “Digital One Belt and One Road” (also known as the Digital Silk Road) in the “One Belt and One Road” mega-economic zone concept promoted by China is suddenly attracting a lot of attention these days. The strategy is not only to build infrastructure such as ports and roads in the target countries, but also to build a fifth-generation (5G) mobile communication system network and establish a China-led digital economy with net services such as e-commerce. (Professor Emeritus Yukiyoshi Fujimura, Tsuge University)
Originally, the “One Belt, One Road” project was unique in its integration of infrastructure development, such as ports and roads, with the creation of urban and industrial parks in the surrounding areas. Although the interest rate is higher than that of World Bank loans and Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), from the point of view of the developing countries, the interest rate is higher, but it does not require more stringent conditions, such as financial balance, and above all, the fact that the project will build cities and industrial parks is very gratifying. Thus, “One Belt, One Road” expanded rapidly.
In the development of infrastructure such as ports and roads, state-owned enterprises, especially central enterprises (those under the control and supervision of the central government), take the lead. For example, in the construction of ports, the National Development Bank provides funds, while the central enterprise Zhaoyang City Commerce Bureau and China Far Seas Shipping Group Ltd (COSCO) are in charge of construction.
On the other hand, private enterprises are given an opportunity to play an active role in town planning and industrial park construction. Huawei has become a front-runner in this area. Huawei has become a new earner for the company by exporting cutting-edge communication equipment, mainly 5G, to many countries along “One Belt, One Road”.
When “One Belt, One Road” was first launched, Huawei did not attract much attention. Huawei did not like the intrusion of the central government, and even kept away from it. However, as the development of 5G progressed and it became a core technology for city planning and industrial park construction, Huawei and the government began to get on the same page.
The reason why the United States is particularly nervous about Huawei’s 5G development is that the spread of 5G communication networks in the countries along the “One Belt, One Road” could lead to a “digital hegemony” in these regions.
The question is, what do the countries along the “One Belt One Road” think? To what extent are they aware of the danger of a complete takeover of their telecommunication networks by China? It would be too late to be blinded by short-term interests and regret it later.