February 6, 2024

China’s Digital Silk Road: Outlines and Implications for Europe

REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo/Scanpix
China's President Xi Jinping is shown on a screen through the digitally decorated glass during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 23, 2020.
China's President Xi Jinping is shown on a screen through the digitally decorated glass during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, November 23, 2020.

The Digital Silk Road (DSR) is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that encompasses infrastructure projects, trade and financial agreements, and cultural and defence cooperation with over 140 countries worldwide. Bringing the digital component into the BRI seamlessly advanced Beijing’s ambition of taking a leadership position in the technology sector.

The DSR not only speaks across regions but also goes beyond the technology infrastructure, which raises two critical concerns by giving China leverage to advance the digital authoritarian governance model and jeopardizing data privacy. To mitigate these risks and reduce reliance on China, the EU must find alternatives by collaborating with trusted partners and diversifying supply chains. First, the EU can expand its technological landscape and engage nations in the Global South and the Indo-Pacific. Second, it must develop and enforce regulatory mechanisms to prevent Chinese state agencies from misusing sensitive data.

Download and read: China’s Digital Silk Road: Outlines and Implications for Europe (PDF)