October 11, 2019

Time for Congress to Establish a U.S. Digital Development Fund

As impeachment deliberations roil Washington, Congress will be tempted to look inward and dial back on efforts to address the challenge China poses to American security, prosperity, and values. This would be a mistake: Beijing does not play by America’s domestic timetable. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have managed to sustain U.S. China policy as a rare area of convergence. At what is a moment of unprecedented political acrimony, Congress should continue to translate bipartisanship on China policy into action – or it will cede ground to Beijing’s ambitions to set the rules and values of the 21st century.

One of the most pressing fronts for Congress is the competition between the United States and China to shape the digital future of the developing world. Under what Beijing now calls the “Digital Silk Road,” China is rapidly expanding its presence in the information technology ecosystems of many developing countries. Chinese-involved projects include everything from telecommunications equipment to online payment platforms to urban public security networks to undersea cables.

Unchecked, these digital activities will translate into enduring advantages for Beijing.

As China’s digital footprint in developing countries grows, it is increasingly positioned to set local technology standards that will privilege its companies. To the extent that Beijing can dominate a handful of key product lines—mobile devices and 5G next-generation wireless hardware—it will attain a wider market edge. Moreover, China’s growing digital presence in developing countries will afford Beijing access to new types of data that will bolster its artificial intelligence industry.

Read the full article in The Hill.

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