China’s growing influence in the global technology market reflects Beijing’s ambition to become a major player in digital technology. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to dominate high-tech manufacturing by his 2025.
The Digital Silk Road (DSR), launched in 2015 as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, reflects this goal of developing a digital infrastructure at home and abroad.
The world has witnessed China’s digital transformation in telecommunications, artificial intelligence, satellite navigation systems, undersea cables and surveillance systems. The Covid-19 pandemic is acceleration DSR will increase China’s digital projects and overseas high-tech investment.
Chinese tech companies have a large presence in the Middle East and North Africa.industry commentators explained Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications supplier, the second largest smartphone maker, and the global leader in fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications networks.
Since 2018, Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu have invested heavily in commerce and telecommunications in the region.
Huawei became one of Qatar’s first wholly-owned technology companies in 2018, contributing to the development of 5G technology and providing better communication between individuals, vehicles and appliances.
In 2019, Huawei partnership agreement We will launch the first 5G local area network in the Middle East and North Africa in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s leading telecom provider Zain.
United Arab Emirates telecommunications companies Du and Etisalat also signed transaction Provide 5G network services jointly with Huawei.
In 2017, Huawei launched Cairo OpenLab, which serves as a hub for conducting research and development (R&D) in North Africa. an established partnership We work with many local universities to train local students.
In Tunisia and Algeria, China Beidou Navigation Satellite System agriculture, telecommunications, maritime surveillance, disaster relief, etc.
China seeks greater tech presence through DSR in many regions, making it difficult for Western firms competeIn the post-pandemic era, the Middle East and North Africa will become more dependent on China, especially in the digital communications industry.
Connectivity has become more prominent since the Covid-19 outbreak. As in other parts of the world, the use of the Internet for online education, shopping and health services has become an integral part of daily life in this region.
Inequality in Internet access remains a significant challenge across the region, especially in countries with poor infrastructure capacity.number of internet users in the region Beyond By 2021, there will be 300 million people, and internet penetration will reach 50% of the population by the end of 2022.
Affordability is one of the main factors behind it. Spread Number of Chinese smartphones in the region. Phone brands such as Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi are gaining popularity among consumers. Competition between Chinese mobile phones and other brands is limited by the cheap prices offered by the Chinese brand and his 5G technology.
Bringing Chinese technology to the Middle East and North Africa will not only improve the economies of countries, but also improve education, health, transportation, agriculture and services.
The adoption of Chinese technology will have economic and political implications for the region. Economically, China is expanding its tech companies, increasing opportunities for China to dominate the digital market in the region. It can affect the competitiveness of local and western firms.
Politically, during the Arab Spring of 2011, the Internet was a key tool used to fight dictatorships. Politicians in the region have realized that the internet can threaten their power, and the level of internet censorship has increased.
DSR is an attractive idea for many countries looking to improve economic growth and tackle digital transformation. However, the security challenges behind engagement with China in this area remain significant.
Data security is a key concern for countries using Chinese technology. Huawei has helped deploy surveillance systems across Africa and was accused in 2019 of helping African governments spy on citizens for political reasons.
As China deepens political and economic ties with countries in the Middle East and North Africa, policy makers need to consider the implications of adopting China’s technological system.
Given the region’s history of political oppression, these systems could be used to impede political freedom.
Passant Mamdouh Ridwan is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Belt, Road and Global Governance Institute, Fudan University.