The U.S.A. and China get their cables in a twist
If you haven’t already heard about China’s new “Peace Cable” you soon will as it places Europe in the middle of a feud between the U.S.A. and China over control of the world’s digital infrastructure.
The Peace Cable travels over land from China to Pakistan, then travels underwater on the ocean floor for about 7,500 miles before terminating near Marseille on the south coast of France. With the ability to transport enough data in one second for 90,000 hours of Netflix (perish the thought), the Peace Cable will add significantly to global capacity and make internet service faster for Chinese and Pakistani companies doing business in Europe and Africa.
But the Peace Cable marks a new flashpoint in the geopolitical relations between the U.S.A. and China and this is due to the involvement of Huawei, the company which former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heeds as being "a Trojan Horse" for Beijing. Not only is Huawei the third-largest shareholder in Hengtong Optic-Electric Co. — the company building the Peace Cable - it is also making the equipment for the Peace Cable landing stations and its underwater transmission gear. To American minds this means the cable poses a very real national security threat, with a risk that during construction, digital backdoors might be inserted to siphon information.
At present around 400 undersea cables carry about 98% of international internet data and telephone traffic around the world, so that will have significant strategic importance. Many of them are owned and operated by U.S. companies. But China had become a landing point owner or supplier for about 12% of the world’s undersea cables and this proportion is expected to grow to 20% between 2025 and 2030. This growth threatens to undermine U.S. dominance over the internet and heightens security concerns the U.S. and its allies may have about sabotage or covert surveillance.
So where does this leave Europe…and the UK? One approach would be to appease the U.S. by keeping certain types of traffic off the cable. But both are left trying to conduct a fine balancing act between keeping as many doors open as possible, without exposing their national security to potential threats.
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