Suneel Kumar

China’s Digital Expansionism in Africa and the US Counter-Strategies

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History
  • Development

This article explains that digital geopolitics is a key component of Sino-US rivalry, as digital technologies have taken the centre stage in the new global conflict between the United States and China. China’s digital expansionism through its Digital Silk Road (DSR) projects is promoting its geopolitical agenda in African countries. Chinese financial institutions are funding African countries’ digital infrastructure projects, which are being implemented by Chinese companies. Chinese companies, which are dominating the African digital technology space, are also setting new technology standards and norms that challenge the existing US-led global digital order. DSR projects have improved the digital connectivity of African countries, boosted the emergence of local companies, created job opportunities for Africans and enhanced governments’ governance capabilities. However, African countries’ dependence on the Chinese digital technology curtails local companies’ growth capabilities while promoting China’s ‘digital authoritarianism’ and ‘data colonialism’, as China’s companies possess market manipulation tools and capabilities. In addition, unmanageable loans given by Chinese financial institutions to implement DSR projects are creating sovereignty-eroding debt traps for African countries. As China’s digital expansionism poses a severe challenge to US geopolitical interests in the African continent, the United States, as a part of its counter-moves, has started a global campaign against Chinese digital expansionism, imposed a ban on Chinese tech companies, adopted the Digital Connectivity and Cyber-security Partnership (DCCP) and launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) scheme. Pursuing an aggressive strategy, the United States should launch a ‘Digital Marshal Plan’ to counter the Chinese digital expansionism at the global level in general and Africa in particular. Hence, in this context, using the descriptive-qualitative approach, this study is based on the content analysis method.

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