Does the Belt Road Initiative include the 5G/Digital Infrastructure?

*BRI Includes Internet/5G

Digital Silk Road is integrated

DW, April 26 2019,, Belt and Road Forum: Will China’s ‘digital Silk Road’ lead to an authoritarian future?
In May 2017, at the first Belt and Road International Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that big data would be integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to create the “digital Silk Road of the 21st century.

Their evidence is old – BRI NOW includes a digital component and outer space

Nadage Rolland, April 11, 2019, A Concise Guide to the Belt and Road Initiative,
Formerly centered on the broader Eurasian continent, BRI has since 2017 expanded to include the African continent, portions of Latin America, Oceania, and the Arctic Ocean. In addition to geographic regions, it also includes a digital Silk Road and a Silk Road in outer space. The initiative is thus pushing China’s outlook well beyond its traditional periphery.

Belt and Road is now digital

Southerland, August 2, 2019, Dan Southerland is RFA’s founding executive editor, After Complaints, China Moves to Make Belt And Road Plan Greener,
According to Tokyo University Professor Asei Ito, China is now not only beginning to address concerns about the BRI’s environment impact and the “debt trap” issues but also has begun welcoming international cooperation in the initiative.
In a paper prepared for the Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies published on July 18, Professor Ito wrote that the BRI organizers will share satellite information, create a “Digital Belt and Road,” including data distribution, and a “Silk Road on Ice” linked to China’s policies in the Arctic.

BRI includes 5G to Europe, 5G key to Internet of Things (IoT)

Federico Pieraccini, April 3, 2019, Belt and Road Initiative in Full Swing in Europe,
The Chinese BRI mega project kicked off in 2014 with the ambitious goal of integrating trade between China and Europe by sea and by land, in the process incorporating all the countries in between. The idea, as a natural consolidation of trade, is to shorten the delivery times of goods by rail and integrate sea routes. The project covers not only ports and rail lines but also the construction of technological infrastructure to achieve global interconnectivity using the 5G technology developed by the Chinese tech giant Huawei…. Italy has in recent months approached the BRI as a result of the new government consisting of the Lega Nord and Five Star Movement (M5S). The decision to sign a memorandum of understanding between Beijing and Rome underlines how the new government wants to maintain a balanced position between Washington and Beijing in certain sectors. This is exactly the approach of Germany, which has elected to continue deepening its ties with Moscow vis-a-vis hydrocarbons and Nord Stream 2 in the face of pressure from Washington. Moreover, both Germany and Italy have confirmed that they want to rely on Huawei for the implementation and management of 5G traffic, which is fundamental to a world dominated by the internet of things.

Digital Silk Road is a subset of the BRI

Dalbor Rohac, American Enterprise Institute, June 10, 2019, The Digital Silk Road,
The “Digital Silk Road,” a subset of the Belt and Road initiative, consists of financing for purchases of Chinese telecommunication equipment, fiber-optic cables, and surveillance systems by governments and the private sector around the g
The Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that took place April 25 to 27 saw 37 world leaders gather in Beijing to discuss more bilateral project opportunities with China. On the sidelines, however, the emerging Digital Silk Road was featured during the “Belt and Road CEO Conference” — a first, which brought representation by global Fortune 500 companies and other Chinese firms as a sign of their interest. Chan Jia Hao is a Research Analyst at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), an autonomous research institute at the National University of Singapore (NUS), April, 30, 2019,, The Diplomat Since 2013, Beijing has inked 173 deals with 125 countries and 29 international organizations under the massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Boosting connectivity has been the overarching concept of the BRI. So far, the bulk of Chinese investments have been crowded around physical infrastructure projects in BRI host countries. The Digital Silk Road, on the other hand, falls under the subgoal of facilities connectivity of the BRI. It was first introduced as the “Information Silk Road” in a March 2015 white paper jointly issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China. Its agenda included strengthening internet infrastructure, deepening space cooperation, developing common technology standards, and improving the efficiency of policing systems among the Belt and Road countries.

Belt & Road includes 5G

Bruno Macaes, 2019, Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order, Bruno Maçães is a Portuguese politician, political scientist, business strategist, and author. He studied at the University of Lisbon and Harvard University, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation under Harvey Mansfield. He is currently a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington, Kindle, page number at the end of the card
Connectivity is not only or even primarily about roads and railways. Several projects are aimed at building telecommunication networks between Asia and Europe under the Belt and Road and create what the Chinese authorities call a “digital silk road” or a “community of shared destiny in cyberspace.” Xi Jinping himself has shown a strong interest in the concept. Inmarsat, a leader in providing mobile satellite services, was the only British company he visited during his state visit to London in October 2015. Around the same time, China and the European Union issued a declaration on the development of 5G mobile networks. The mobile technology is so important that it was highlighted in the Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang during the National People’s Congress session in March 2017 and a report by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology predicted that 5G will drive 6.3 trillion yuan of economic output in the country by 2030. Massive overseas investment fits with China’s ambition to boost key technologies in artificial intelligence, big data, smart cities, the industrial internet and cloud computing. An early benefit will come from new opportunities for its e-commerce companies. Many of the Belt and Road countries are yet to experience a thriving e-commerce sector due to a lack of good digital infrastructure. Partly as a result of the initiative, Chinese online retail giants such as Alibaba will be spearheading the development of a truly global e-commerce market. Data will be managed on a large scale and large pools of data connected through new infrastructure and technological breakthroughs. In March 2018, the Guangzhou startup CloudWalk Technology signed a strategic partnership with the Zimbabwean government to begin a large-scale facial recognition program throughout the country. The agreement, part of the Belt and Road, will see the technology primarily used in security and law enforcement and will likely be expanded to other public programs. The project will help the government build a smart financial service network as well as introduce intelligent security applications at airports, railway stations and bus stations. In the process, Zimbabwe may be giving away valuable data as Chinese AI technologists stand to benefit from access to a database of millions of Zimbabwean faces. Rolling out the technology in a majority black population will allow CloudWalk to expand the algorithm’s training and to eliminate racial biases, getting ahead of US and European developers. As one commentator put it, this could very well be the latest example of Africa handing over natural resources to China.4 Maçães, Bruno. Belt and Road (p. 44). Hurst. Kindle Edition.

Belt & Road includes telecommunications/internet

Bruno Macaes, 2019, Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order, Bruno Maçães is a Portuguese politician, political scientist, business strategist, and author. He studied at the University of Lisbon and Harvard University, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation under Harvey Mansfield. He is currently a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute in Washington, Kindle, page number at the end of the card
Visiting Beijing that year, I was hearing a different story. At home the initiative was not called the “New Silk Road,” but “One Belt, One Road.” Its scope was so large that the timeline for its realization had been fixed at more than thirty years, with the first phase of the project to be concluded in 2021 and the project as a whole realized by 2049. No one was that interested in those transcontinental trains, except as marketing opportunities opportunities—as the first strategy document for the initiative starkly put it, “we should cultivate the brand of China-Europe freight trains.” The measure of its early achievements were rather the industrial parks being launched and the massive ports whose construction or renovation would draw billions in investment. An interconnected system of transport, energy and digital infrastructure would gradually develop into industrial clusters and free trade zones and then an economic corridor spanning construction, logistics, energy, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, culminating in the birth of a large Eurasian common market. Trade, not trains. Maçães, Bruno. Belt and Road (pp. 10-11). Hurst. Kindle Edition.

Even if they win it’s definitionally distinct, it still links because the internet infrastructure will be deployed on the physical infrastructure

Mark Goodwin, CSIS, 2019, China’s Digital Silk Road,
Matthew P. Goodman: You know, by – it’s estimated in about five years about half the globe is going to be covered by 5G and over a billion people will actually be using 5G technology, maybe more. Nobody quite knows. So there’s a lot at stake there. This story also, though, covers the notion of technology that’s embedded in traditional infrastructure – roads, bridges, pipelines all have technology embedded in them. And I think that’s also an important part of this story and I hope we touch on that as well. All of this provides a lot of opportunities. It presents risks. It produces a clear need for policy thought and discussion and policy responses. There are issues ranging from privacy, to security, to commercial opportunities as well, which is all part of this story. So we think it’s an important story, and we’re delighted that you think so enough to join us today. So we’re glad you’re here.
China Unicorn proves this previous argument
Jeffrey Pad, June 25, 2019,, China Unicom to build 5G networks on Belt and Road
China Unicom, one of the three telecom giants in China, will push forward with the construction of 5G telecommunication infrastructure globally, particularly in Belt and Road countries, according to the company’s leader. As the first Chinese telco that went through mixed ownership reform, China Unicom will promote its “Five New” strategy, which refers to new governance, new genes, new operations, new functions and new ecosystem, Li Guohua, the President of China Unicom, said in an opening speech at the China Unicom International Partners Meeting in Shanghai on Tuesday. Li said China Unicom will strengthen its ties with global telcos and industry chains and jointly promote the construction of 5G telecommunication networks, apply new technologies and form an ecology with mutual benefits.

*BRI Does NOT include Digital Infrastructure

BRI is trade, including land and sea

Xinhua, June 29, 2019,, Xi underscores high-quality infrastructure construction for inclusive development
The BRI, proposed by Xi in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aimed at building trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe, Africa and beyond.

Belt and Road is land and Sea

Hust Catalog, 2018, Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order,
“China’s Belt and Road strategy is acknowledged to be the most ambitious geopolitical initiative of the age. Covering almost seventy countries by land and sea, it will affect every element of global society, from shipping to agriculture, digital economy to tourism, politics to culture

One Belt, One Road is distinguished from the Digital Silk Road

US Department of Defense, 2018, Assessment on the US Defense Implications of China’s Expanding GLobal Access,
The report describes China’s expansion by a range of means, including military access and engagement; the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) and Digital Silk Road initiatives; technology acquisition; and a growing economic footprint; with a focus on areas of military expertise.

Digital Silk road is “alongside” OBOR

President Xi has promoted the “21st Century Digital Silk Road” alongside OBOR. Chinese stateowned or state-affiliated enterprises, including China Telecom, China Unicom, China Mobile, Huawei, and ZTE, have invested or submitted bids globally in areas such as 5G mobile technology, fiber optic links, undersea cables, remote sensing infrastructure connected to China’s Beidou satellite navigation system, and other information and communications technology infrastructure. While providing benefits to host countries, these projects will also facilitate China’s efforts to expand science and technology cooperation, promote its unique national technical standards, further its objectives for