Will the internet split into American and Chinese?

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The plan – according to experts – is a sign that the escalating technological war between Beijing and Washington threatens to tear the Internet network apart in the future. The cable – designed by Chinese operators (China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile), known as EMA (Europe-Middle East- Asia) – would connect Hong Kong with the island province of Hainan in China, and then lead to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France. It is to be manufactured and laid by the Chinese company HMN Technologies in the past associated with Huawei. Its cost would amount to approximately USD 500 million. The company is expected to receive a subsidy from the Chinese government for this. The US government, concerned about Beijing’s potential for eavesdropping on internet data, has successfully thwarted a number of Chinese submarine cable projects overseas over the past four years. Washington has also blocked licenses for planned private submarine cables that would link the United States to Hong Kong, including projects led by Google, Meta and Amazon. all international internet traffic. These high-speed links have been owned for decades by groups of telecommunications and technology companies that pool their resources and build vast networks to allow data to flow seamlessly around the world. But because they are vulnerable to espionage and sabotage, they have become part of the rivalry between the United States and China. The superpowers are fighting for dominance over advanced technologies that could determine economic and military dominance in the coming decades. The China-led EMA project is intended to compete directly with another cable currently being built by the US company SubCom LLC called SeaMeWe-6 (South-East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-6), which will also connect Singapore to France via Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and half a dozen other countries along the route. The SeaMeWe-6 cable consortium – which originally included China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom and carriers from several other countries – initially chose the Chinese HMN Tech to build it. However, a successful US government pressure campaign flipped the contract to SubCom last year. China Telecom and China Mobile then pulled out of the project and began planning an EMA cable with China Unicom. Chinese operators signed separate memorandums of understanding this year with four telecommunications companies: France’s Orange SA, Pakistan Telecommunication Company, Telecom Egypt, and Zain Saudi Arabia, a unit of Kuwaiti’s Mobile Telecommunications Company KSCP. The Chinese companies were also in talks with Singapore Telecommunications Limited, a state-controlled company commonly known as Singtel. Other countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have also been invited to join the consortium. None of the companies involved in the project have commented on the matter. The Chinese companies hope to finalize the contracts by the end of the year and launch the EMA cable online by the end of 2025. The cable would give China’s strategic advantages in the fight against the United States. First, it would create a super-fast new connection between Hong Kong, China and most of the world, which Washington wants to avoid. Second, it will provide China’s state-backed telecommunications operators with greater coverage and protection in the event that they are excluded from using US-laid cables in the future. The construction of parallel US- and Chinese-backed cables between Asia and Europe is unprecedented. This is an early sign that global internet infrastructure, including cables, data centers and mobile networks, could be fragmented over the next decade, two security analysts told Reuters. Countries could also be forced to choose between using China-approved internet equipment or US-backed networks, which will perpetuate divisions around the world and affect the tools that drive the global economy, such as online banking and satellite global positioning systems. They will run slower and less reliably, believes Timothy Heath, a defense researcher at the U.S. think tank RAND Corporation. . “The more the US and China disconnect from each other in information technology, the harder it is to run global trade and basic functions.” Antonia Hmaidi, an analyst at Berlin’s Mercator Institute for China Studies told Reuters the internet works so well because no matter where the data has to travel, it can travel many different ways in the time it takes to read that word. She believes that if data follows routes approved in Washington and Beijing, it will be easier for the US and China to manipulate and spy on these data; Internet users will experience a degradation of services and it will be harder to interact or do business with people around the world.Reuter, KR

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