In a recent speech in Hungary, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Europeans that using technology from Chinese telecommunications manufacturer Huawei could hurt their relationship with the United States. This warning follows a series of high-profile arm wrestling involving the U.S. government, Huawei, and countries like Canada and Australia. The Huawei saga has come to encapsulate a broader concern: Current efforts by Chinese state-led companies to access — and eventually dominate — global markets in key technologies, such as 5G or artificial intelligence, raise a number of privacy and competition-related questions. China’s disinterest in Western standards, coupled with lack of reciprocity and other barriers to foreign companies operating in the Chinese market, makes these challenges even more acute. As argued by other U.S. officials, the lack of a level playing field ultimately means that China could leverage global supply chains and infrastructure nodes and “game” the current international order against American power. In order to forestall this risk, the United States will need to work with allies. And the advanced economies of Western Europe and East Asia are particularly critical.
China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project was late in coming to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). First announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, OBOR, later renamed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), did not arrive in the LAC until 2018, when, at a meeting of the China-CELAC (Community of Latin America and the Caribbean) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that BRI would “inject new energy into the China-CELAC comprehensive cooperative partnership and open up new prospects.” Given the impressive rise of the People’s Republic of China to the world’s second largest economy—first, by some measures—and the difficulties that many LAC countries were experiencing, it is hardly surprising that Wang’s offer was greeted with enthusiasm. If brought to completion, the integration of the LAC region into BRI would comprise 65 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global GDP.
In January 2018, the elegant Bozar theatre in Brussels was the backdrop to a People’s Republic of China video montage of key historic events on the occasion of the Chinese New Year Gala. While a Chinese singer on stage belted out a patriotic song, a large screen behind her displayed an enormous Chinese flag flying in the wind followed by film footage of key milestones including China’s first nuclear detonation, admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the launching of its first aircraft carrier. Members of the audience, which included diplomats, European officials, and military representatives, collectively caught their breath while watching. It’s not that they were impressed, although they might have been. They were aghast. China’s military might, growing economic power and technological advances, have served as a wake-up call to many policymakers in Europe. Brussels’ rather outdated “missionary” narrative of helping to shape and influence China according to their policy preferences was clearly not how the future was going to unfold.
China’s recent policy paper on the European Union shows that the country continues to recognize the EU as an important partner in many fields. A new, distressing element is that China has toughened its demands towards the EU to respect its core interests and to refrain from meddling in its internal affairs.
This graphic maps out a selection of Chinese AI companies and provides an overview of their current projects and collaborative efforts. To find out more about China’s ambitions to become a world leader in artificial intelligence, see Sophie-Charlotte Fischer’s recent addition to our CSS Analyses in Security Policy series here. For more graphics on economics, see the CSS’ collection of graphs and charts on the subject here.