Thursday, November 22, 2018

One Belt, One Road, One Ruler

The Chinese project to extend trade lines west with their One Belt, One Road (OBOR, a.k.a. the New Silk Road. or Belt and Road Initiative) comes with Internet censorship, which a lot of the host countries like a lot:

Many of the nations Obor projects pass through are run by corrupt or dictatorial governments that are always seeking new methods to keep them in power. China has something for that as well. Part of the Obor package is the construction of fiber optic lines to carry communications, especially Internet, traffic. China also offers a wide variety of tested (in China) tools for controlling what locals can use their Internet access for. For many nations Obor is being built in this Internet control option is a very attractive feature. The fiber optic cables are easily built as part of new pipelines, roads or railroads. Chinese firms are major worldwide providers of cell phones and all manner of Internet related hardware and software. Many of the Chinese censorship tools are unwelcome or even illegal in the West but most of the nations in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa that are part of the Obor network have rulers who are eager to gain more control over what local phone and Internet users are up to. China has lots of apps for that. China will also help install and manage these new “content controlled” networks and give local rulers the benefit of Chinese experience and new developments. One of those new developments is particularly popular; reliable facial recognition systems. Another dictator-friendly new app measures and tracks enough Internet and other activity by locals to come up with a “Social Credit” ranking for every person and enterprise in the country. For dictators this is an easy way to monitor emerging threats (widespread lower social credit scores) and determine how best to deal with these problems. This, coupled with the more effective Chinese Internet monitoring, eavesdropping and censorship tools makes unelected governments more confident about their ability to stay in power.

And there is more on how China manipulates the Internet and punishes those who contradict the party line.

From China's point of view, those governments accepting Chinese help (and bribes) will be reliant on China to survive and will become satraps bowing toward Peking in the growing Chinese empire.