Both China and the U.S. have internet dominance – but each country has very different approaches for implementation. And, of course, we have to remember that Al Gore invented the internet – I jest – but China, as well as other countries, quickly absorbed the technology and made it their own.
The WSJ recently published a feature article claiming that the global internet was being split in two, as the world’s two super powers – China and the U.S. – attempt to claim 5G dominance. On the one side, the Chinese employ a digital landscape where mobil payments have replaced cash. Smartphones are the devices of choice, where the customer can “shop, chat, bank, and surf the web” with one app. Of course, the Chinese government keeps close tabs on all that goes on in China and that extends to internet communications, as well. An international risk advisor, recently stationed in China, has reported that upon returning to the U.S. he felt like he had been released from prison. While in China, he resorted to circumventing government firewalls by cycling through virtual private networks. Silicon Valley executives have begun to express “concern” that, because the Chinese can freely invade their citizens’ privacy, they can capture large amounts of data for analysis that might give them an edge in the development of artificial intelligence and other technological advances. Sounds like the Silicon Valley magnates are gearing up to make the approach to U.S. citizens that they really don’t need data privacy, and, “for the benefit of mankind” should give up the privacy rights guaranteed by our constitution. FaceBook’s Global Policy and Communications Director has recently stated that, “The Chinese approach could well lead to large-scale improvements like better health outcomes – benefits derived from the mass-capture and analysis of data.” Riiiiight. But he felt constrained to add, “But it could equally be put to more sinister surveillance ends.” NO LIE! And, he added, “The real choice is between an appropriately regulated tech sector [yes, we need one of those!], balancing the priorities of privacy, free speech, innovation and scale – and an alternative in which ingenuity runs roughshod over some basic guarantees of privacy and individual rights.” One can tell that the Silicon Valley folks, particularly the FaceBook crowd who have already done so much in the way of invading individual privacy and selling the data, are just shimmering with the anticipation of being able to convince the senseless in America to give up their privacy rights so that they can learn everything there is to know about them and be able to sell that information – for profit, of course – not for the altruism of advancing better health conditions! It’s possible that the Chinese will do an end run around America and use the technology that they have imbedded in devices sold worldwide to spy on the rest of the world – that is the essence of the claims currently being made against the Chinese company Huawei. That’s the reason for the dramatic push by the Chinese to develop 5G technology first – so that new apps and hardware can be developed that flourish with the faster speeds – and those devices can then be exported – you see how this picture might be shaping up. China has sold its internet model along with its telecom equipment in countries like Vietnam and Tanzania, instituting what China calls its “Digital Silk Road.” For those living in China and desiring a freer use of their powers of communication, there are the work-arounds using smartphones with foreign SIM cards or simply talking in code while conducting a “WeChat” session. One woman who travels to China regularly on business explains that, “My friends in the government and media will talk in code, and it can take a long time to figure out what they’re saying – Sometimes the topic is probably not so sensitive, but you never know.” Yes, indeed, you never know how that will go when you’re living in a country where everything is monitored. Seems the best solution is to make sure that we don’t slide onto the Silicon Valley wish-list in America and become a country like that!