We are in a digital arms race with China. Its state-sponsored telecommunications companies—Huawei and ZTE—own more than half of all global 5G buildout. Chinese telecoms are even partnering with Russian state-owned telecoms to increase their digital footprint and enhance their tech. China then uses this influence to help other autocratic nations, from Cuba to Burundi, manage their networks and oppress their citizenry.
Every part of the internet ecosystem is in play. China's ruling party, the Chinese Communist Party, sees unfettered speech on the internet as a threat to its culture and form of governance. Chinese-based search engines like Baidu have become a de facto propaganda tool to censor "objectionable" content, whether it be about workers' rights, the plight of the Uyghurs or even the concept of free speech. The party controls what its citizens see on social media, even outside its borders. China sees the internet as a new digital warfront.