16 Sep, Wednesday
11° C

Boğaziçi Asya Araştırmaları Merkezi

DIGITAL POLICIES OF CHINA AND ITS CHALLENGES TO LIBERAL ORDER: Are Chınese dıgıtal polıcıes challengıng wıth the lıberal global order?

Are Chınese dıgıtal polıcıes challengıng wıth the lıberal global order?

*This paper was written with support from various news sites, security-oriented researches, publications of official pages and various academic publications, and contains personal arguments on the subject.


This paper will analyze the digital policies of China by focusing on the role of political values in liberal world order. China’s advanced technology based upon their unique digital values, which are absolutely different from the EU and the USA’s main ideas. This study will present this issue in five parts. Before starting, I talk about Realist and Liberal Understandings of International Relations and the basic principles of liberal international system. First, I shed light on current policies of China by focusing its main strategies. In the second part, I touch upon Digital Silk Road and Made in China policies of Chinese government. In the third part, I mention about 5G technologies and surveillance mechanisms of Chinese government. In the fourth part, I will talk about main strategies of the USA against the principles of China. In conclusion, I will blend all the things I have described and draw a general framework.

Key words: Liberal vs. Illiberal Curtain, China, the USA, European Union, Liberal Order, International Relations, Globalization, Digitalization, Security

*Before I begin, I would like to briefly emphasize the realist and liberal international relations theories so that the subject I am talking about can be perceived more easily. Let’s start with realism first.

For realist understanding of international relations, the main actors on the world stage are states, and they are legally sovereign actors. World politics represents a struggle for power among these actors and they try to maximize their national interests. There are three core elements that we identify with realism: Survival, statism and self-help. Self-help system in which states must rely on their own military resources to achieve their ends. States try to survive in a global village that composed of different actors with different interests in international structure. War is a recurring feature of anarchic system and anarchy is the cause of war. On the other hand, it is possible to improve human beings for the liberals, that democracy is required. All people are juridically equal and have certain constitutional rights to education, free press access, and religious freedom. Liberalism believes that one that is predominantly market is the most effective form of economic transactions. Liberal ideals of individualism, democracy, equality that puts order and authority at greater value. Historically, liberals have agreed with realists that war is recurring feature of the anarchic system. But, unlike realists, they do not identify anarchy as the cause of war. (Baylis, 2007) In order to focus on my research, I should explain the basic principles of the liberal international order which Western researchers and policymakers defend the elements of liberal values.

The liberal conception that misjudges people to be divided into different sets of belonging in ethnic, racial, color, religion, gender and language axes assumes that all people have inherent, divine, universal rights that are granted to them and cannot be withdrawn in any way. Theorists of the liberal international order understand it as an “open and rule-based international order” that is enshrined in institutions such as the United Nations and norms such as multilateralism. U.S. and European foreign policy think tanks have become increasingly preoccupied with threats to the set of norms, rules, and institutions known as the liberal international order, especially from “revisionist” rising powers and above all authoritarian powers like China and Russia. (Kundnani, 2017)

There are three types of liberalism. First one is: political liberalism as opposition to authoritarianism, other one is economic liberalism as opposition economic nationalism and liberal IR theory as opposition to realism. All of them are directly related to each other. The Atlantic Charter is the founding document of the liberal international order. Main principles are peace and security, self-governance, open societies, the rule of law, economic prosperity, social welfare and free trade. It includes “four freedoms” — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Liberal international order might include three elements: the security order, the economic order, the human rights order. When we talk about the security order, it means that it is an order in which what states can and cannot do is not simply determined by power. International law constrains the action of states. When we talk about the economic order, it means that it is an open liberal international order in other words, when economic relations between states are organized on the basis of liberal principles. The other one is human rights order which “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person” and committed all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” (United Nations)

After I briefly talk about liberal theory, I will talk about how China’s digital policies do not overlap with liberal values.



Nowadays, we are constantly seeing news about China. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we make assumptions about both Chinese policies and the future of the new world order. We are going through such a process that we do not even know what will happen today. It also confuses us to think about what the future will bring. Even though China, which is on our agenda with the problems with America, is mentioned with this event, there are deeper problems. The digitalization policies implemented in the country, the application of artificial intelligence and algorithms on Chinese society caused uneasiness on the global society and liberal order. There is a strong argument about current international politics and the relationship between soft power and hard power by Tarık Oğuzlu, Professor of International Relations:

We have quickly moved away from the unipolar world order in which the American-led Western hegemony prevails, and we have passed to a multi-polar world order for some. This process triggered by the global financial crisis in 2008 has gained momentum with Covid-19. It was meaningful to try to recruit soft power in the unipolar order where globalization lived  its golden age because everyone was running to the same goal. Heads were clearer on what was right and what was wrong. Neoliberal policies were in the form of a single pass. The main element that will distinguish states from each other was their performance at the point of applying this recipe. In this order, where goals, standards and methods were defined almost universally, it was meaningful to try to recruit soft power focused on attraction. However, the situation is very different now. In today’s international order of multi-actor, multi-polar and multi-story, the soft power focused on innocence and sincerity is quickly replaced by sharp power applications. Russia and China are definitely more successful than the western liberal democratic countries in sharp power practices. They can think strategically and act accordingly to defame others and create a positive perception for their own favor.” (Oğuzlu, 2020)

I strongly agree with the Professor in his view. What I understand from the coronavirus epidemic process is that whichever country moves more strategically, it is the most appreciated. In this way, it allows other countries to think positively about itself. Although our topic is not coronavirus, what I am trying to explain is that China acts strategically and tries to create a positive perception in the eyes of other countries by using active public diplomacy. In this process, most Western states failed to act with a realistic perspective and offer a global solution. This is the result of trying to protect their own assets. Even trying to bring the masks to point B while going to country A is the most important example of self-help. I am one of those who think that the European Union has failed in this process. So much so that even the European Union is grateful to China for their help in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Oğuzlu: “Creating a positive perception towards China is one of the most important parts of China’s global power strategy. It uses the ‘One Belt One Road’ project almost as a geopolitical weapon. Chinese leaders who think that the more countries make political and economic conditions dependent on China, the more effective they will be. China’s only wish is to establish utilitarian economic relations with everyone, despite all their internal differences, for others to accept China’s central position and show China the respect it has demanded.” (Oğuzlu, 2020)

Of course, this desire does not always comply with the ‘so-called’ liberal values of Western countries. Because China uses its strategies in an authoritative way on the basis of its developed infrastructure and digitalization policies, even though it tries to establish an economic relationship, they are completely decomposed politically. The Belt and Road Initiative (One Belt One Road), Made in China 2025 and the Digital Silk Road are some of Chinese initiatives which try to make China great again.

The USA and China: Main Characteristics of Two Superpowers in the New Cold War Era

According to the liberal approach that puts concepts such as individual rights, freedom and human rights at the center, any policy that a country will adopt should not contradict these concepts and content in any way. Instead of individuals’ unique rights, a perspective that puts only the state in its main policy can have bad consequences for global society and international politics. Countries ruled in the light of liberal and democratic values, such as the United States(!), do not compromise their opinions in their cooperation with other countries whose values are contrary to their own values. Countries like America, who believe that their values and ideas are universal, try not to respect other ideas but to impose their own ideas. The most important goals for the USA are the absence of a hegemonic power that would threaten the global leadership of America and the spread of America’s political values to other countries. The more countries are ruled around liberal democratic values, the safer America will be. (Oğuzlu, 2020)

The events we have witnessed in the last few weeks, especially in America, clearly show us that America is far from an exemplary country profile. These protests, which are a revolt against political and social events such as racism, inequality, gender discrimination and xenophobia, are also accumulated against the neoliberal order. The strange thing is that these protests have begun to appear in countries outside of the US, and most of these countries are already liberally approaching human rights. Unfortunately, what you are defending in theory may not be able to show itself in practice. I think the biggest responsibility here belongs to state elders. There are a lot of countries that say they take international law and liberal values into consideration, but they consist of a big zero. America is just the most prominent example of this. In this way, both his credibility in the global world disappears, it shows how irrelevant it is with its values, and it ceases to be reliable. The moral ground he defends against China, where he criticizes illiberal policies and values, is also disappearing. Squeezing literally into his heel.

Creating a positive profile in the international arena with a strategic mind is one of the most important features of China’s global power targets. The Belt and Road project, which it uses  as an economic, geopolitical and commercial vehicle, is the primary project he plans to fulfill these goals, but not only that. There are many projects trying to make China a leader in terms of artificial intelligence, digitalization and telecommunications by 2030. They clash with America at these points because we live in an age where everything is automated and we witness the battle of the two great powers. Almost every step from countries’ security to domestic and foreign policies are being taken, including digitalization policies and cyber security strategies.

We can say that we are in a new Cold War in every aspect because both countries have very different strategies and values. Americans see their values universally and divide countries into friends and enemies. But China is not like that. Rather than showing everyone as equal individuals like America and trying to make them look like America, it accepts the differences
between the states and evaluates all these differences in economic and geopolitical cooperation.

According to China, biathic culture and respect are just two of the important points and what they expect from other states is not to try to compare them to their own culture, but to continue their economic cooperation within the framework of respect. He also applies it in his own community. The society in which they were born individually imprisons each Chinese in certain roles and forms a kind of social order. One of the most important examples of this is the Social Credit System, which I will explain below. The concept of imprisonment is not something accepted by everyone because there are too many Chinese citizens who are satisfied with it.

Compared to America and other western countries, China, which is more patient in acting on its actions and ideas, uses this as a strategy. That’s why I’m always saying that you can’t trust China. It seems that this problem of trust seems to have started to be felt much. An important example of this is the fact that the USA started to squeeze the European Union on China and forced Europe to choose between a world integrated with free, egalitarian and liberal values and China’s political illiberal, authoritarian strategy. But according to Pompeo, who speaks at the Brussels Forum, China actually makes this choice. Even here, I cannot find credibility because America finds a point to show itself in any problem or disagreement that does not work. So much so that Pompeo said that even the proposal to establish a US-EU-China Forum pleased them. Is it really believable? Do you really believe that this trio will create sound collaborations? I think this is nothing more than a utopia.

Digital Silk Road and Made in China 2025

Globalization has been a powerful source for economic growth, the movement of goods, services and finance. With the help of digitization and automation in this era, Chinese global trade policies has been integrated into world markets and contributed to create massive market opportunities. China’s Digital Silk Road is that kind of strategy for digital competition and it is the component of Belt and Road Initiative, which is a global development strategy of China. It aims to establish China as the global technological power, the success of which will have significant economic impacts in the international order. China’s digital strategy covers its entire economy and society. It envisions rapid technological advances to generate fresh economic growth, foster effective governance and control, and project global power. (Pacific Forum, China’s Digital Silk Road, 2019)  But China does not aim to change the current global order, it wants to preserve economic components of this order that facilitated its economic growth, while spreading its illiberal governance model. It has greatly benefited in economic terms from the liberal international order. The Digital Silk Road aims to reshape the international order to maintain economic openness, but spread an illiberal political model through exporting digital authoritarianism. (Pacific Forum, 2019) It has an aim to deepen China’s digital reach into the Europe.

Furthermore, there is also another initiative that endeavors to preserve China’s position in the global stage in terms of economy, technology, and high-tech industries. It is called as “Made in China 2025” or “MIC 2025”. This project aims to modernize China’s industrial capability that it can compete in domestic and global arena and secure its position as a lead-power in advanced technologies such as robotics, 5G and energy vehicles. China sees MIC 2025 as a chance to fully integrate into the global manufacturing chain and more effectively cooperate with industrialized economies. (Institute for Security& Development Policy, 2018) MIC 2025 affect key sectors and it creates advantages in market, enterprises, strategy. China seeks to end its reliance on international technology and upgrade its industrial capability by ensuring that innovation, quality, efficiency and integration drive manufacturing across these key industries such as information technologies, robotics and automated machine tools. (Made in China 2025, 2018) Beijing is proactively shaping international standards for emerging technologies including blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. (MERICS, China’s Digital Rise, 2019)

China strives to be a global superpower in technology and digitalization, and there will be newly formed global order in the 21st century. Because the USA and other democratic states, especially the most powerful European Union countries, are in a competition with China not only politically but also economically and technologically. When China has illiberal political values, European Union clashes with China by supporting liberal-centered Western ideology. According to Daniel F. Vukovich, who is an American scholar of comparative literature based in Hong Kong, “China’s illiberalism is something to be celebrated, not mourned, and he argues that liberalism, with its focus on individual rights, is a particular Western ideology that is irrelevant in authoritarian China.” (Freedman, 2019) We witness a change in the trajectory of the current international order and the EU’s digital destiny can change because of this competition.

China uses a strategy which is called “hide your capabilities and bide your time”. In that view, exterior area did not need to see how China became stronger before its leaders were prepared to exercise the power of the nation. China waits for a while in order to apply its interests and policies throughout the world. And through this time it does not want to show its capabilities to other countries easily. According to Aljazeera, China has ever-expanding ambitions but in recent years China seems to have abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s famous dictum: “Hide your strength, bide your time.” And without a doubt, China’s rising economic and technological power has provided tremendous opportunities for neighbouring countries and much of the world. (Heydarian, 2014)

In today’s world, where digitalization is increasing, the speed of information reaching from one point to another is higher than we expect. Technology has been the focus of our lives, from the phones we have to the things we use at home. The level of development of the countries can be calculated in direct proportion with the digital world and the adaptation process to the requirements of the age. Countries The more they do research on modern topics such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber security, they will complete the most important step in a sustainable development. Undoubtedly China is the country that does this best today. Until 2030, China, which is committed to being the best in all developments that add value to technology, especially in digital transformation, 5G and artificial intelligence areas, does everything for the sake of this purpose.

Liberal vs. Illiberal Curtain?

China is a rising force in global economy and it is in technological and 3 economical war with the USA. China has also many cooperation strategies and projects with the European Union. Although they have common points and cooperations on specific projects, their political values and strategies shape the future of the digital era. There is an ambiguous image in the global era but China’s strategic technological competition with the USA and EU determines the trajectory of the current international order. The real threat posed by China is not economic or military, it’s ideological, and the rise of China will adversely affect EuropeanAmerican security and prosperity. To be sure, China’s arms build-up and steroidpaced growth are causes for serious concern. But the rise of China is about a lot more than guns and butter. Equally challenging are the new ideas that rise with it: illiberal conceptions of internal governance and international norms. (Democracy Journal, China’s Illiberal Challenge, 2006) I called this clash between them as liberal vs. illiberal curtain, like Iron Curtain which divides Europe between Soviet influence and Western influence, focuses on protecting the European Union values against China’s illiberal ideas. Although the curtain itself is controlled by the USA and not Europe in order to preserve US hegemony and dominance of the EU, this is also a strategy to isolate China in order to better contain it and keep it weaker than the USA economically and diplomatically.

European Union’s all activities composed of dignity, freedom, equality, peace, solidarity, justice and citizen’s rights. All European countries try to follow new opportunities for global peace and to make sure the voice of the EU and its people are heard in the world. The European Union united in diversity to make Europe more free and livable place for all people by common values such as liberty, democracy, equality, transparency, the rule of law, respect for human dignity and freedom of speech. It is also one of the largest suppliers for sustainable development with humanitarian aid programmes in the global arena. The Union is a special organization in which member states willingly support the notion of national sovereignty to implement shared policies and governance in many areas to gain stren gth and take advantage from collaborations. EU countries compete with the other parts of the world with its core values, because Union’s political ideas are not always same with other nations. Democratic and liberal countries within the EU act collectively through an institutionalized decision making process and they create a diverse environment to discuss global topics that affect the trajectory of the current order of the European Union. Most important country is the USA as an ideological partner and a source of reliance and adherence for the EU in most of the cases  which are strengthened by cooperation on trade, diplomacy, military defense and their shared values in politics but China will affect the future of the EU, because, even China cooperates with America and the European Union in many areas, it is becoming an increasingly strong country not only in economy and politics but also in technology and digital sphere. China differs from the USA and the EU in terms of its norms, principles and values, and its digital policies put pressure on Europe. In this sense, it hopes to reshape the international order to increase geo-economic competition by exporting and spreading political liberalism while the European countries and other democratic states engage in power competition with China by creating new opportunities for an innovative and democratic world and by defending
politically liberal values, such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights. (Institute for Security& Development Policy, 2018)

Since the end of the Cold War, democratic liberalism has been the dominant model for national development and international affairs and it is center on the economic and political freedoms, and responsibility of the international community to promote and protect thosemrights. The rise of China presents the West, for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a formidable ideological challenge to that paradigm. The “China model” powerfully combines two components: illiberal capitalism, the practice and promotion of a governance strategy where markets are free but politics are not; and illiberal sovereignty, an approach to international relations that emphasizes the inviolability of national borders in the face of international intervention. It poses a distinct alternative to Western-style democratic liberalism (Democracy Journal, China’s Illiberal Challenge, 2006) and create an ideological curtain between China, the European Union and the USA. The EU is an international body built on rules-based multilateralism to promote a peaceful cooperation. These principles, therefore, form its institutional image and identity. More recently, however, internal crises have raised the question of whether the EU is a community of solidarity based on common values should be reduced to the Single Market. This comes at a time when the long-standing values-based transatlantic alliance is being challenged by the presidency of Donald J. Trump in the United States. The EU is required to rethink its global role, including its relations with non-democratic powers such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC). (European Think-tank Network on China, 2018: 91) In the light of Trump’s disregard for human rights and his administration’s “America first” policy hampers closer cooperation in the digital sphere, the EU sees itself as the last protector of liberal values in world affairs and consequently needs to seek issue-specific partnerships to promote political ideals ranging from human rights to  international law and multilateralism based on rules. In some of these contexts, China is a partner; in others, it is the EU’s adversary. Having lost the previously reliable support of the USA on liberal values, the EU must remain even more committed but also find new strategic pathways to defend such values in a changing environment. (European Think-tank Network on China, 2018: 91) The EU’s approach was inspired by the idea of constructive engagement hoping China would ultimately liberalize. This turned out to be ineffective. Although China rhetorically refers to democracy, human right and the rule of law, it interprets these values in
a different way – and under Xi Jinping the PRC is becoming even more authoritarian. (European Think-tank Network on China, 2018: 91)

5G Security, Surveillance Mechanisms and China

The liberal idea can be implemented in the liberal security model, which is also an positive model, focused on political solutions, with the goal of maintaining and sustaining peace. As I said above, the security order is one of the main principles of the liberal international order that there is a constrain over the actions of a state. International law constrains the actions of states. I think our understanding of security has also changed with technology and digitalization because we live in an age of artifical intelligence and one of the main concerns is cyber-security when we think about the future of technology. Cyber wars can replace physical wars thanks to advanced technologies and algorithms. It can also lead to discussions on the meaning of concepts such as power, security and war, which are among the most important concepts in international relations. One of the things I am going to explain here is the Social Credit System, which is implemented in China and is completely against liberal values; the other is the benefit of 5G technology to China and its place in the eyes of other countries. Let’s start with the social credit system first.

There are certain policies that every country has implemented on its citizens. The Social Credit System in China is just one of the policies that China applies to its citizens. Social Credit System spreads the idea of standard credit control to all areas of life. In this system, everyone has social points determined according to their attitudes in the society and each citizen is given 1000 points at the beginning. The maximum achievable score is 1300, while the lowest score is 600. Citizens earn points by donating blood, helping any charity, helping the elderly, praising the government on social media, helping the poor, and even buying national brands in supermarkets. But they are also punished if they cheat in online games, do not follow pedestrian crossing rules, do not visit their aging parents regularly, and if they do bad acts like this.

If the citizen’s score is high, he / she can wait for a shorter time in the hospital, enter most places for free and benefit from the state’s facilities. But if they have taken bad action and have a low score, they will not be able to buy tickets even for public transport, have limited access to public services, and will be punished in a degrading or embarrassing way in a public place called ‘public shaming’. There are also three ways to collect and use the data of citizens: the first is the facial recognition system, which matches the faces with a database, the second is the artificial intelligence-assisted smart glasses used by police officers to monitor the citizens, and the third is the large screens set up to embarrass the criminals. In this way, the Chinese government encourages them to be reliable and virtuous while punishing citizens who do not comply with them.

According to the report of Bertelsmann Stiftung, citizens with high scores enjoy being privileged, while citizens with low scores fall into the category of second class people. And as stated by the Mercator Chinese Research Institute, the data used not only helps to evaluate social behaviors but also to analyze companies’ attitudes in economic affairs. Social Credit System is one of the most ambitious systems ever made in the field of digital social control and one of the biggest indicators that digitalization has reached the highest levels of technology. The question of what the future will bring to the Chinese society, the global world and our lives as individuals is a matter of curiosity.

We call it uncertain what the future will bring, but it is a clear fact that these policies of China are accepted by one part of the society and rejected by the other. I had a Chinese friend and I wanted to consult her as I caught my attention the moment I researched this topic. But she said she didn’t know about it. I investigated, surprisingly, most people in China do not know about this system. After I told her about the Social Credit System, she told me that she thought this system was effective due to the population density and that they might have aimed to keep control. According to a documentary I watched, social practice, which is one of the most important weapons of digital dictatorship, like the Social Credit System, does not seem very nice to Uyghur Turks, journalists and those who criticize the government, while making people who have close relations with the government happier. Utilizing all the blessings of digitalization, China can punish its citizens for even the slightest criticism against it, depriving them of most things.

According to China’s understanding, there are differences in society or between countries, but the main thing is to provide peace. Apparently, this peace is realized with the biathic culture and obedience order. While strict management and surveillance policy, which is not closely related to liberal values, offers a more peaceful and virtuous life to Chinese citizens, it restricts everyone’s lives with its big brother image. What really frightens states that are governed by a liberal approach is that these sneaky attitudes of China are seen in global society, trade and collaborations. The actions against the Uyghur Turks have already been forgotten, as China is progressing with patience and strategic moves and trying to show a positive profile outside. Moreover, the current problems faced by America seem to have already lost the moral ground that made up the values of the country, and the Trump administration, which ruled the childish country and formed the values of its country, and realized that while trying to universalize their own values, there was not even value left. China is taking advantage of this situation, its biggest global competitor. China is moving rapidly and surely in the way of being the biggest power both within China and by keeping its society under strict control and order. Of course for this we need to talk about another topic: 5G technology.

5G is the spine for a wide extend of modern innovative progresses, counting Smart Cities and the Internet of Things. Wireless connection technologies are having a revolutionary change with 5G. This situation gives 5G an infrastructural importance. When IoT (Internet of Things) technologies are powered with 5G technologies, more smart devices can share more information among them with less delay. The amount of time elapsed will decrease while transferring the data. Thanks to 5G and IoT, fast connection technologies have already started to appear in different sectors with different uses. For example, driverless cars that make sense of their surroundings through sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence technology can make sharper and more accurate choices using the data obtained by sensors and cameras from 5G technology and other devices around it. Also, thanks to the data transfer capability, we can communicate with the farthest corners of the world much more quickly. Although this is a positive result of globalization, countries such as China, who use this technological progress and digital transformation for their interests, can seriously harm this order. Although it is used as more interconnected people, the origin and possible usage areas of technology pose a risk for liberal order.

Although it is a fact that 5G will make people’s lives easier, differentiate and improve the quality of digital products such as movies, videos, games, it is essential to integrate this technology into our lives in a way that will minimize security and privacy problems. More data means a larger pool of information, which means becoming a target for cyber attacks. It is no wonder that America, which cares about security and reliability, carefully follows China’s actions within the scope of 5G technologies and even makes some limitations.

When high-tech gets to be progressively vital to the worldwide economy, concern is additionally rising around the exercises of the Chinese government within the innovation segment. China has many digital initiatives and it is an advantage for China in expanding its authoritarian ideas, and in growing its surveilance policies. Belt and Road Initiative is a kind of signature for forign policy of China. They try to increase Chinese productivity and efficiency in the global sphere. Chinese government thinks that if China play the biggest role in the world arena, they can displace the Western values. There are many innovation that made in China but China want to create an environment in which people say that it is invented by China.

China wants to apply its strategies for 5G in other countries with the help of the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese leaders want to use it to revise the global political and economic order to align with Chinese interests. Thanks to th products are used anywhere in the world, they could gain access to the private data of billions of people, which enable the Chinese government to collect private information about individuals’ lives, social credit scores, their histories on websites etc. These efforts and China’s efforts to keep its global supply networks so strong will leave most companies, especially American companies, in the background in terms of technology and digital transformation. The Chinese companies like Huawei are closely involved in developing 5G technology and has increased its accession in international standard-setting bodies for 5G.

In China, Huawei is particularly noteworthy because it is a company that is in close contact with the government, providing 5g and telecommunication equipment, creating an extensive network. This is actually an advantage for the Chinese government. Although it is an advantage for them, it seems to be a threatening situation for other countries. One of the reasons why cyber security issues started to become so important in the 21st century is that personal information is available to be captured by companies and institutions. Due to the proximity of Huawei and the Chinese government, countries also have serious doubts about the protection of personal information and the security of the data stack. Because if the Chinese government requests, Huawei has liability to transfer information.

The Henry Jackson Society in London as of late analyzed a trove of twenty-five thousand resumes of Huawei representatives and found that numerous mid-level specialized work force had solid foundations in work related with insights gathering and military exercises. Particularly, these workers had at slightest one of the taking after characteristics: worked as operators inside China’s Service of State Security, worked on joint ventures with the Chinese People’s Freedom Armed force, were taught at China’s driving military institute, and/or had been utilized with a military unit connected to a cyber assault on US organizations. (Bartholomew, 2020)

The Australian government has banned the 5G infrastructure network Huawei wants to build in the country for security reasons. According to the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, England, America and New Zealand, also called Five Eyes, if any of these countries add Huawei to their networks; this would pose a serious threat to other parties of the alliance and their security. Although more than one country has made such a decision here, the most important country in the global power competition with China is the United States, as we all know, and there are some measures to take against China and its strategies: It includes evaluating the supply chain risk, ensuring that the nation deploys a 5G network efficiently and safely, and enhancing the export and investment analysis to protect the national security interests of the country. Because Chinese firms may look for to secure this intellectual property and know-how as well as crucial information on US citizens, through acquisitions of US companies.

The use of Chinese-developed networks to transfer military data is highly dangerous and could jeopardize US military operations in locations across the globe. The US needs to consider how to ensure access to critical infrastructure, such as base stations and data centers, that is not produced in the US. (Bartholomew, 2020)

American strategic approach to China and its reasons: White House Document

On May 21, 2020, the United States sent to the congress a 16-page strategy document titled “The U.S. Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China”. There are also points to be explained in the Chinese Strategy published by the White House. In this part, I will try to voice a few of them by quoting. As stated by this document, The Chinese Communist Party ’s growing utilize of financial, political, and military control to compel passive consent from country states harms crucial American interface and undermines the dignity of nations and people around the world. And the Peoples Republic of China nowadays postures various challenges to United States national interest. (White House, National Security Council, 2020) These are economic and security challenges, and challenges to American values.

China’s massive use of state-driven protectionist processes and regulations harms businesses and workers in the United States, distorts global markets, breaches international norms. In particular, WTO members intended China to continue its route of economic reform and become a market-oriented economy but these plans have not been fulfilled. China has not embedded competition-based trade principles and policies, while attempting to defend its domestic markets.

The initiatives by the PRC to conquer the global information and communications technology industry by unethical competition are expressed in restrictive regulations such as the PRC National Cyber Security Policy, which allows companies to adhere with Chinese data localization initiatives requiring Chinese government access to foreign data. Other PRC laws compel companies like Huawei to cooperate with Chinese security services, even when they do business abroad, creating security vulnerabilities for foreign countries and enterprises utilizing Chinese vendors’ equipment and services. (National Security Council, 2020)

As Secretary-General Xi articulated in 2017, the Chinese government intends to make China a “global leader in terms of extensive national power and foreign influence,” by improving what it describes the model of socialism with Chinese strategies. This structure is grounded in the hegemony of a single government in China, a state-run economy, the implementation of technology and science at the behest of the state, and the subordination of human and civil
rights. That runs counter to the values embraced by the United States and other like-minded nations, and every individual’s intrinsic integrity, freedom and value. (National Security  Council, 2020) Because of all of these the USA aim to protect the American people, homeland, and way of life; promote American prosperity; preserve peace through strength;
and advance American influence.


Economic power is one of the most important factor when we try to understand the trajectory of the international order in the 21st century. The Digital Silk Road is an important manifestation of China‟s recognition of the vital role technological dominance will play in creating economic and military power that will shape the development of the future international order on the global stage. (Pacific Forum, 2019: 11) Some researchers say thatthere is a cold war between the USA, other European democratic countries and China, and they describe the competition between them as „ digital iron curtain‟. In this environment China seems as “Saudi Arabia of data” (Pacific Forum, 2019: 19) because of its effort to export digital authoritarianism and political illiberalism. It also leads to new environment which is called by me as “Liberal vs. Illiberal Curtain”

Along with artificial intelligence technologies and all other digital transformation strategies, China 5G has one of the most important roles in global power competition. Maybe we can say that it is the biggest power because the moral ground of American politics is graduallydisappearing and China is benefiting the most from this. While order and authority are very dominant in its internal policy, it does not try to change the liberal order very much because it conducts its relations through economic connections. This goes to the point I said before. As a country that examines the interstate relations more economically, China shows how much it is a self-interested and planned country with illiberal attitudes and behaviors while sneaking on the liberal international order in order to easily implement its policies.

On the other hand, key pillars of the USA and European policies promote to spread democracy, peace, and protect human rights which are fundamental liberal values. But it is challenged by China‟s digital policies and values and it increases the risk that the global technology ecosystem gives way to seperate and politically divided digital spheres of influence. (Pacific Forum, 2019: 3) China is on the rise, its digital power will have negative results for European core values; therefore, Europe needs to safeguard its interests in a fast changing economic and technological environment (MERICS, 2019: 11) because European policy-makers and decision-makers should avoid from a worst-case scenario where a fractured EU faces a digitally hostile, harshly competitive and assertive China, and where China will be more powerful than EU in digital sphere as a leader. As noted by Financial Times, European Commission will help to catch up with the USA and China, while using competition tools to help protect its citizens and its core principles, and EU aims to prepare itself so the data will be used by Europeans and its values. (Financial Times, 2020) The most important points are that focusing on how European Union should handle with economic opportunities, which are directly linked to China’s digital rise and transition in a place where China is America’s strategic opponent. I can easily say that we witness really competitive period in the 21st century in international relations. We live in the age of speed, innovation and high-level technology. The current international order has more than one big power because with the help of digital age, each country try to make themselves more stronger with economic and human development strategies. Digitalization and policies on research and innovation are some of them that directly related to technological competition between powerful states. But there are also different kinds of political values and norms of countries that shapes their foreign policies and economic and political cooperations. China’s relationship with European Union and the USA is most important one because China is getting more powerful in the global arena by spreading its core values. China has a communist system of political governance and a capitalist economy, which means political decisions can be made quickly, and the economy is flexible. European Union is a giant bureaucratic political entity that is based on some kind of consensus but heads towards autocratic bureaucracy. There are 28 member states with different interests and goals, and interference from the USA determines what they can do or cannot do. Their economies are mostly in financial trouble; therefore, they cannot make necessary and suitable political decisions quickly in their objective interests, they are weak economically.

As a result, China possess an advantage over the EU, and the Western age of global hegemony is almost over. China needs to wait because it has time but the EU does not have time to act. As claimed by Mercator Institute for Chinese Studies, there are some recommendations in managing competition in a digital age and I think, it s necessary to mention some of these to understand future policy implications. These advices include considering ways to make the EU digital market access for Chinese investors, establishing a “Europe-China Economic Strategy and Digital Futures Task Force” to help coordinate China policy across member states, calling out China’s actors when the PRC’s domestic cyber regulations directly or indirectly infringe the privacy of European economic actors and citizens and seeking targeted cooperations with China on the EU terms where appropriate to safeguard ethical standards and core values of the EU and put its strength to the fore.(MERICS, 2019: 48) International trade agreements should also address data security and cross-border data flows to prevent data localization policies that a government can easily exploit.

Lastly, I think European Union should protect its core values against Chinese digital authoritarianism and try to protect balance between the USA and China because it is challenging Europe on several levels. There are many opportunities for cooperation in some areas but in a rapidly changing economic and technological climate Europe should not hesitate taking action to protect its interests. The current administration of the USA has deep problems with the EU but EU should follow its main principles by negotiating with the USA in a peaceful way. It would be more profitable than its relationship with China because I do not think that China is a reliable country, even they have economic relationships. It is clear that China is trying to promote model of state-led capitalism, as authoritarian state, and political illiberalism even it has no intention to change current global order from root. But with authoritarian policies and risks on data protection, we can easily say that these are directly against the fundamental concepts of liberalism and China uses cajolery to expand its ideas, and pretending like a peaceful state with its two-faced. Spreading of Chinese illiberalism could set scores of developing nations away from the path of liberal democracy, creating a community of countries that reject Western and European views of human rights, and accepted standards of national governance. The rise of China is stake on the future of the liberal international order. There is indeed a new China threat, but it is an ideological one. (Democracy Journal, China’s Illiberal Challenge, 2006)

If the European Union rethink and regulate possible future trajectories in relation with the USA and China, if it accomplishs to protect its core values while being moderator between the USA- China, and if it learns how to create a peaceful environment in a situation where there is a 70-year-old child runs the country (the USA); international community will witness the best scenario in which a united Europe secures productive relations with digital China, and we can destroy this curtain between the EU and China to provide most reliable and productive cooperations.


Bartholomew, Carolyn. ―China and 5G.‖ Issues in Science and Technology 36, no. 2
(Winter 2020): 50–57

Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens. The Globalization of World Politics: An
Introduction to International Relations. New York, N.Y: Oxford University Press, 2007

Cheney, C. , Pacific Forum, China’s Digital Silk Road, July 2019, accessed at 01.05.2020,
retrieved from

China Channel, Illiberal China, September 2019, accessed at 13.04.2020, retrieved from

Democracy of Journal Ideas, China’s Illiberal Challenge, 2006, accessed at 14.04.2020,
retrieved from

ETNC, Political Values in Europe-China Relations, December 2018, accessed at 27.04.2020,
retrieved from

EU Chamber of Commerce in China, The Digital Hand, August 2019, accessed at 29.05.2020,
retrieved from

Freedman, J. , “Illiberal China”, China Channel, September 20, 2019, accessed at 22.06.2020,
retrieved from

Heydarian, R. , “Hide your strength, bide your time”, November 21, 2014, accessed at
15.04.2020, retrieved from

Kundnani, H. , “What is the liberal international order?”, the German Marshall Fund of the
United States, May 3, 2017, accessed at 20.06.2020, retrieved from

Made in China 2025, Institute for Security&Development Policy, June 2018, accessed at
24.03.2020, retrieved from

MERICS, China’s Digital Rise, April 2019, accessed at 27.05.2020, retrieved from

5G vs. National Security, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung, February 2019, accessed at
24.05.2020, retrieved from

Oğuzlu, T. , ―Liberal dış politika ne demek?‖, Antalya Ekspres, June 24, 2020, accessed at
24.06.2020, retrieved from

Oğuzlu, T. , ―Amerikan istisnacılığının sonu‖, Antalya Ekspres, June 11, 2020, accessed at
24.06.2020, retrieved from

Oğuzlu, T. , ―Amerika’nın sosyal ve ekonomik krizi‖, Antalya Ekspres, June 5, 2020,
accessed at 24.06.2020, retrieved from
Oğuzlu, T. , ―Yeni Soğuk Savaş kızışıyor‖, Antalya Ekspres, May 27, 2020, accessed at
24.06.2020, retrieved from

Social Credit System Documentaries on YouTube



Gizem Nazlı – Researcher

I have often experienced that being flexible in human relations returns to me as productivity. I think it is very important to learn new things and to develop my skills. I have many interests in my academic and social life for improving myself in each sphere of life. I have a passion to research about developments in the world, to read reports of UNDP-UN-WEF and same kind of organizations to follow new disciplines and study areas who will lead the world. I always try to follow current global issues to comprehend what we can do to shape our future together.

Post a Comment