China’s Digital Silk Road: Strategic Implications for the EU and India
This paper is part of a project on China’s Digital Silk Road: Challenges and Opportunities for India and the EU, run collaboratively by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) and the Leiden Asia Centre (LAC), The Netherlands. The project examines China’s expanding role in the digital domain in South Asia, particularly India, and in the EU, to identify: a) The (economic) opportunities, and strategic and security challenges posed by China’s Digital Silk Road and other ‘digital investments’; b) Convergences and divergences in digital priorities, concerns, and capabilities between India and the EU; and c) Potential for India-EU digital cooperation.
This paper offers a big-picture analysis of the Chinese Digital Silk Road’s (DSR) three most strategically pressing implications for the EU and India. It does so by analysing the DSR’s global progress and specific impacts in Europe and South Asia.
The three implications are: a) the creation of a full-fledged Chinese digital backbone; b) the setting of technological standards in the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution; and c) the shaping of cyber governance, norms, and a ‘digital experience’ with ‘Chinese characteristics’. While immediate DSR impact is currently more ubiquitous outside the EU and India, it will substantially influence the global digital order as well. The DSR offers countries involved in the initiative with economic opportunities, and can, if harnessed smartly, assist in enabling a more level playing field with advanced economies. Equally, it also poses challenges. From the EU and Indian economic and security points of view, neither can afford to ignore the DSR, or be reactionary in policy responses. For both, addressing emerging digital realities will require a long-term multi-pronged vision, and greater collaboration among like-minded states.
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