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Question: China and the United States have their strategy for the development of the digital

economy. Is there any possibility for China and the United States to cooperate in "digital silk
road"?

Launched in 2013 by President Xi, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), sometimes also known as
the New Silk Road, is considered by many as one of the largest infrastructure projects ever thought
of. The BRI consists of a vast collection of development and investment initiative that stretches from
East Asia, to Europe, thereby expanding China’s economic and political influence. Despite no
foreboding words from President Xi’s speech that the BRI is a geopolitical movement, the existing
climate of increasing tensions between the US and China politicises it. From the perspective of
China, President Xi is re-enacting the olden days of Zheng He, by using trade to unite the countries
without waging any physical war. As such, China believes and stands firm that the BRI is beneficial
for all and hopes that the BRI will be useful for innovation and development of the digital economy.

Faced with the increasing China-led regional integration, the United States (US) began to grow
skeptical about the intention of China. Developing South and Central Asia’s economies had always
been a long-standing US goal even during the Obama Administration. Today, with the Trump
Administration, the US had instead chosen to try to counter the BRI with the BUILD Act which
consolidates the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), with several components of the
US Agency for International Development (USAID) into a separate agency with a $60 billion
investment portfolio. In comparison to the investment put into BRI by China which stands at more
than $1 trillion, it is likely that the US will seek to crowdsource for a larger pool of private investment
through underwriting risk.

Nevertheless, the BRI is not all disadvantageous for the United States. In the United States’ interest
of building up Central Asia’s economy, the US can make use of the BRI projects as a method to have
China pay for the infrastructure initiatives in Central Asia. While the possibility for China and the
United States to cooperate in a “digital silk road” is not non-existent, there are multiple roadblocks
in this arrangement. Some of these roadblocks include the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused
anti-China sentiments from the Trump Administration as well as regulations and restrictions for
specific software and major players such as Facebook in China. For the US and China to cooperate
and work together in the digital silk road, both parties must be willing to leave themselves
vulnerable and open to a new, reformed relationship.

However, with many of the key countries already signing partnerships with China for the Belt and
Road Initiative, the US will be keen to maintain its competitive edge over China in trade. The two
superpowers are constantly in a tug of war for economic power. Given history, the US would be
unlikely to cooperate in this project, citing multiple reasons in geopolitics and national security.

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