China's efforts at home and abroad to become a global leader in digital technologies is a challenge for Europe. The ambitions of telecommunications giant Huawei to participate in building European 5G networks are just one example of many, say MERICS researchers Kristin Shi-Kupfer and Mareike Ohlberg, authors of a new MERICS study, "China's digital rise. Challenges for Europe.”
Shi-Kupfer, who heads the MERICS research area on politics, society, and media, and research associate Ohlberg show that China’s digital ambitions are state-driven. They examine the close connection within the IT sector between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the state, and private companies and show that China’s digital rise is not only spurred by economic interests but also by political goals to become a leading superpower in research and technology.
Civil-military integration in particular has been on the national agenda of state and party leader Xi Jinping since 2014. For example, China wants to take the lead in dual-use technologies and quantum cryptography, advance its cyber-warfare capabilities, and use Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a weapon. According to the MERICS study, China also wants to use its capabilities domestically to implement its vision of cyber domination and social control. This includes the Social Credit System, which the leadership wants to roll out nationwide in the coming years. For China, digitization is a means to achieve several goals at once: creating new engines of growth, achieving technological independence, social control, and international leadership in digital technologies.