In This Review

The Digital Silk Road: China's Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future
The Digital Silk Road: China's Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future
By Jonathan E. Hillman
Harper Business, 2021, 368 pp

Hillman shows how Western companies, hungry for access to the Chinese market, allowed their digital technology to be hacked, stolen, transferred, and copied, and how the resulting Chinese-manufactured equipment, produced at low prices with state support, has been installed all around the world, including in the United States. If this process continues, it could confer on China the power to set hardware and software standards for future equipment; expand the network of Chinese-made cables, switches, and satellites; and allow China to collect information on individuals and countries, silence critics, and, if desired, turn off other countries’ communications, transport, banking, and water systems. The country is poised, in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s words, “to dominate advanced technology manufacturing by 2025, to lead standard setting by 2035, and to become a global superpower by 2050.” Western governments began to push back only when the Chinese strategy was already well advanced, but Hillman argues that the contest is not over. He advises leading democracies and major emerging markets to invest cooperatively in research and development, set open technical standards and ethical norms that promote freer societies, and provide public support to help their private firms market high-quality equipment at competitive prices.