What happens when China builds your country’s internet?

What happens when China builds your country’s internet?


I’m in a back road in rural Zambia. As you can see, there’s basically nothing around here. Even so my phone has pretty good internet service here. Today, even the most remote parts of
Zambia have gone digital. To see that firsthand, we traveled a thousand
kilometers from the capital, Lusaka. In a car, on a plane, on another plane. And a boat, across a lake, and through a swamp,
to an isolated island. And it’s as connected to the
digital world as any other part of Africa. – Before, you needed to physically send messages to people you know by boat or by canoe. This is Kunda Mwila. He grew up on this island and has worked in the telecoms industry for decades. But now, with the 3G, we are able to just make a call on your mobile. Cell service, wifi, cable TV, satellite dishes. All of this has something in common: China. Private Chinese companies build the infrastructure, funded with loans from the Chinese government. Around the world, Chinese-built networks are connecting places to the digital economy for the first time. But China is also giving governments unprecedented power to control the information on those networks. For young democracies like Zambia,
that can be a blessing or a curse. We’re traveling around the world to find
out how China is changing basically everything. This week, the internet. I’m Nikhil Sonnad, reporting for Quartz. You’re watching Because China. China’s presence here is all part of its
plan to create what it calls a “digital silk road.” The goal is to build markets for its digital services and products in developing countries. A recent study of Chinese tech companies identified dozens of telecom projects like 4G networks, underway in Africa. China is also helping to build 20 smart cities across the continent, including in Zambia, which aim to digitize public services
and collect data on citizens. And there are plenty more in other parts of the world. These projects can make a huge difference in the lives of everyday people. But there’s another, more fundamental goal at work: China wants to reshape the way we think about the internet, around the idea of “digital sovereignty.” This says that every nation should decide
what kind of internet it wants. That’s different from the original conception, that every country would connect to one free and open internet. What’s unique about the Chinese model is that it puts the power to make these decisions fully in the hands of the local government. Not private companies, not civil groups, not individuals. For African governments that want to improve their infrastructure, this makes China a welcome alternative to its Western competitors: less
judgmental and more flexible. – I think unconsciously even,
the West are very patronizing. You know, they know better, they know best, and then they won’t give you this unless you look like them or sound like them or do things like them. Mulenga Kapwepwe is chair of the board for
Zambia’s public broadcaster, ZNBC, which received a Chinese loan for a major infrastructure project, the digitization of TV service nationwide. – So that for me, I think, is one of the attractive things that the Chinese also do come with. Asking you what you want and how you want it. China went further than just making
digital TV work. The loan allowed ZNBC to build these slick new studios. And a Chinese company is building its new nerve center to centralize data from bureaus around the country. But the deal has been controversial. It further strengthens ZNBC– which is state-owned and pushes a pro-government line– in a country where independent
reporting is already difficult. And this is how China usually works with other countries. It deals directly with governments, and only with governments, says Iginio Gagliardone, who studies the politics of technology in Africa. – The state, independently from its democratic or authoritarian credential, is the one that gets empowered. China doesn’t care what kind of government it helps, whether it’s through cheap loans, technical assistance, or brand-new digs for a public broadcaster. – This can have good and bad
outcomes. It can lead to schools and hospitals
being better connected. And when it comes to states and governments where checks and balances from other sources of power are not as effective, this could exaggerate authoritarian tendencies that already exist. A sovereign internet gives the Zambian government a powerful tool to control and manage information. In the battle between citizens and the state, it strengthens the hand of the state, putting extra stress on the country’s democracy. – China has consistently supported states in expanding their version of the internet. No matter how democratic or authoritarian the state is. And Zambia has been moving decidedly
in the direction of authoritarianism. Since 2014, its ranking in the
democracy index has slipped. Its internet is only considered “partly free.” In 2017, the government arrested the opposition party’s leader and charged him with treason. In 2016, the government made an
especially aggressive move: it shut down The Post, an independent newspaper known for its investigative reporting. Joan Chirwa, a journalist and founder of Zambia’s Free Press Initiative, was managing editor at the time. – So what happened with The Post in 2016? – We were getting ready for the next day’s edition, and the next thing we saw was some
armed policemen in some vehicles. There wasn’t any chance for
any talking or negotiation. They straight just went and told
everybody to leave the offices. Some people were crying, others were screaming and just not knowing what to do. Because you don’t know whether
you’ll be back in the morning. The government’s official reason for
closing the paper was unpaid taxes, but people here agree that it was its role as a challenger to state power that got it closed for good. In addition to having her publication shut down,
Joan is currently on trial for trumped-up charges of
“defamation of the president.” That authoritarian logic is extending
to social media, too: a teacher who insulted the president on Facebook was sentenced to two years in jail. These kinds of things make Joan uneasy about China’s role in shaping Zambia’s internet. – So those in the online space are the only ones left to sort of do some of the things that traditional media was previously doing. Joan and others worry that the government might
shut down such websites, or the whole internet altogether, during the next presidential election, in 2021. The Smart Zambia project, built with help from Huawei, could be used simply to improve public services, or it could start to look like the massive surveillance apparatus of the “smart cities” in western China. – There’s been some equipment which has been procured by government from China for the effort of controlling the flow of information. So the fear is genuine. – How would you diagnose the
health of Zambia’s democracy? It’s… ailing. I think we were almost there. But we got to a stage where our claim to be a democracy is being questioned in many places. China’s massive role in setting up Zambia’s internet infrastructure doesn’t have to be good or bad. Ultimately, it’ll come down to how the local government decides to wield its newfound power, and whether Zambians are able to hold them accountable.

96 Comments

  • Tzwac dastag says:

    What happens when china builds your country's Internet?

    1) The control it
    2) They steal your privacy
    3) They threaten you
    4) The make you obey them
    5) They influence you

  • Stephanie hall says:

    All hail China 🇨🇳 from America

  • jonnda says:

    Wow, I AM watching because China.

  • dimaatik says:

    AMERICA IS DECLINING.. WHY CANT THE "GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH" DO THIS INSTEAD?

  • WeedIsHealthyForYou says:

    China

  • Jedi Grand Master says:

    6:17 This is happening in Hong Kong

  • Premier League says:

    Quartz tried so hard to make China look so bad.

  • 2sp00ky4m3 # says:

    well the result is u get ur internet

  • Dee B says:

    Meanwhile in the Philippines ..

  • Ahmad Wehbe says:

    Dragons are eventually slain.

  • Guilherme sampaio de oliveira says:

    So, Chinas government is a bunch of filthy statists, no surprise.

  • Andi88kc says:

    If the US doesn't want Huawei, China can find other partners. 
    Instead of judging, demanding and discussing they just come, give money and do it.

    Please just stop to always try to make China look bad.

  • Romanke says:

    still waiting for countries to transition into authoritarian democracies

  • ChelovegII says:

    Sounds exactly what Russia is trying to do with the Internet

  • Andi88kc says:

    no matter what China does, they will always be BAD

  • Dungeon Master says:

    Americans concerned about checks and balances in countries where there is no internet or infrastructure. LMAO. When the state in Africa is WEAK then you will get different checks and balances in Africa – who has more guns checks on the government.

  • Dennis Huang says:

    So, they are too poor for the American company to help and yet still got to bash them 😂😂😂👍👍👍 America is the greatest, they are the best they are the king…

  • Yitong Yang says:

    Partly free is better than NONE. Can‘t’ believe we are allowing hypocrites to become part of journalism
    these days.

  • L says:

    Is Quartz implying that China should deal with non-existant private companies in Africa? Or that China should empower opposition parties and meddle in African country's elections by giving technology to the opposition instead of the official government? If China would do that – Westerners would be the first ones crying that China supported interference into African elections by supporting opposition who would come to power, so no matter what China does – Westerners are critical and want Africa to be left undeveloped.

  • Lukman Kolawole omotosho says:

    Biased reporting

  • Xiaoyu Cai says:

    Seems what ever China doing is wrong.

  • Repz says:

    Huawei is a chinese owned company that also produced in China.
    Nokia’s 5G is also produced in China.
    Ericson’s 5G is also produced in China.

  • Eriksson Luo says:

    Western media is so toxic

  • Nova Verse says:

    Bye bye Democracy for Zambia, more African countries to follow under CCP´s ruling..

    The west has done bad, but China is no different, we´re talking about a country with a communist regime ruling party..

  • Gregor says:

    4:51 what battle are you talking about, what is this ideological drivel? This is a false dychotomy, the state represents people not opposes them, there is no battle, there are no sides. You want Africa to be constantly in the revolt, regime change, or complete anarchy without the government? You must be in love with Somalia, there is no state there, the people have WON! Go and travel there and do the report there, or you afraid to go to that country with no government?

  • TeslaKaniv says:

    As if Cisco equipment can not be used the same way too.

  • Anderson says:

    Quartz, where everything China does has an ulterior motive and is bad, and western imperialism is good

  • Shayna Ghram-Kaiser says:

    The same thing that happens when China builds anything, it breaks in a week.

  • Tamigasa玉川 says:

    USA has no problem dealing with and supporting Arab authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia, selling them arms and technology when they wage unlawful war on Yemen, but they pretend to be of higher moral position when it comes to China?

  • James Garrard says:

    Starlink is about to screw China .

  • Kevin says:

    Kudos for spinning everything, guess we should destroy their internet and let them live like animals, after all, animals have democracy, right?

  • Troy T says:

    "There is basically nothing around here but my phone has pretty good internet"
    Sounds impossible to americans right? Sometimes you don't get signal even if you are right in the middle of the street of a big city XD

  • Yiheng Zhang says:

    You just sell your products to the customers, are you responsible for how the customers will use them?

  • 單車不是車 says:

    It's always amazing to see all these biased western media pretend to be neutral on topics that they are reporting (rolling my eyes!)

  • Mar Celo says:

    Answer: you are screwed. Be sure every bit of information is being sent to China. And be sure that no dictatorship, censorship and human rights free country is a good destination for you name, address, credit card number, internet browsing history, all photos, videos and texts from your PC/smartphone/tablet, etc. Imagine North Korea with unlimited money: this is China.

  • Annie Chen says:

    I’m so happy to see everyone realize that this journalism is hypocritical and against China:,)
    Dislike this video and report it if you want as well guys! This channel is super biased anyway!

  • hoonsiew yeo says:

    Rest assured – China isn't playing the games of dominant power which the west especially US always concerns with their "interest and security". China is more interested in beneficial relationship – bilateral relations and for this China formulation internet isn't risking – only this progress provokes envy and jealousy among US administration.

  • Eduardo Campos says:

    Poor idiots who deal with the chinese

  • Budiman Lim says:

    Democracy is tool by imperialist west to initiate regime change if they don't do as told.

  • Trav2016 says:

    PROPAGANDA! I say NOT! Hail China, shall your rule over the savages of the world be clear. All hail Pooh Bear!!!

  • Time To Destination says:

    When the content of the video barely compare US and China, everyone did so in the comment section.

  • Abu Alex Mathew says:

    According to them, people should have opinion to each and everything under earth, fight with each other and never prosper. That's democracy for them. Kudos to this bullshit. I dont support China, but I appreciate the fact they bring the much needed infrastructure.

  • manideepreddy kondakindi says:

    Airtel is indian company not chinese
    Dont show airtels logo it is misrepresenting

  • TELEVISIBLE says:

    Huawei 5G is a threat

  • Fei Han says:

    4:13 China doesn't care what kind of government it helps. Well, because you shouldn't manipulate any domestic affairs. Not like the us.

  • Jesse Chen says:

    So China is helping Africa to get internet. Western media: China want to control the world… Wouldn’t the developed western country do it to them instead? Chinese people are the most peaceful group around the world, but the western media use their value to predict what China is.

  • guang yang says:

    do not stir up trouble.

  • Aeris Reyha says:

    Choose between china who give you facilities and money then ask you for payment (money or control),
    Or you prefer to choose USA and their allies who make scandal and criminalize on your country first, send troops, and take over the country in the name of justice… 😅

  • lee ck says:

    This media is similar to any other MSM.

  • Ezio Auditore says:

    so why usa doesnt give better internet deals then?

  • 人情味儿没有 says:

    Lol. There is nothing bad with building out digital infrastructure. They used Chinese technologies because they are the best in the market. Trying to spin it and make ridiculous claims is not gonna earn you any credibility, Quartz.

  • George Gu says:

    Very funny to see these media guys to fool the ppl around the world, they think they are smart to fraud those ppl on the spot? Instead, the only fooled are their own and their children generation by generations.

  • G HWANG says:

    All about communism🔥

  • Karma Fairy says:

    Why should China meddle other countries domestic affairs?? They are not seeking control, it's strictly business. Isn't it arrogant to think anyone that doesn't share the western values has to be wrong or evil?? Why don't you guys report how Facebook is manipulating and doing with your data?? Stop sh*tting on China and blaming everything on China

  • Liyu Wang says:

    The template of writing news about China: link anything possible to politics and criticize it is not "democratic" (by the western standard) lol

  • Van Park says:

    There is no free lunch. Zambia people and government will pay the price back to china. Whatever the price is.. China will take back.

  • michaelfitz56 says:

    Joanna must shove respect for the leader of the country

  • The Undertaker says:

    LMAO on gullibility of those comments saying China is better cause it doesn't install leaders which are their puppets.(Spoiler- like everyone, china is here for their own benefit) Cause you know what, by the means of internet, China can directly control both the people and the government of these nations without any difficulty and there's nothing then you could do about it.
    Once the internet is entrenched deep in every aspect of life, then you'll be in total control of Chinese govt.
    Welcome to 21st century colonialism where data is power and whoever controls internet controls the world!

  • Bleach Dome says:

    The Americans must be pissed they can't spy on Zambia anymore.

  • Nametayi谨言慎行 says:

    West just cannot compete. If China’s solution is so flawed and corrupt, why can’t the Western companies take the chance to win over it?

  • 漢仔 says:

    See these Western hypocrite. Their nature won't change, small minded hypocrite which robs others and then start to point fingers at others when someone enters the fray. The white hypocrites didn't ask who rob, kill , loot , enslaved the Africans for centuries. Chained , beaten up and sold. Even if soeone is to complained, it would be the Africans , not white men from the west who pretend to be good. Can't stand them.

  • Clap Banna says:

    I do not understand the point the video is trying to make. Are you saying that China should be patronizing and do all the things (3:02) she says the west already does? I personally would find a nation more responsible if they did not interfere with the internal affairs of a foreign nation. I am just an internet user what do I know.

  • R ae P says:

    So basically Chinese goverment is doing experiences in African undeveloped countries to bring a state controled internet to have more control over population, amazing! 1984 we are almost there, i see in future xxi century will be like in cold war USA X URSS but USA X CHINA, ocident "free" societies agains totalitary dictatoriships like China

  • Unity Liberty says:

    You really think china is going to allow freedom in Internet…the internet should decentralized like the government.

  • Nightfury Matthew says:

    Uh oh.

  • Leon Degney says:

    Get rid o the useless annoying background music.

  • Larry Yao says:

    Does the western independent media report like BBC report without bias? Or is it just taking a democratic decision by reporting selectively.

  • Arun Sar says:

    I am not sure why Quartz kept showing images of 'airtel' throughout the video while taking about China. Everything that has a red logo isn't Chinese. Airtel is an Indian Telecom provider.

  • Diego López says:

    Ok now i know this channel is american, good american marketing 😉

  • Danish Joshi says:

    There were airtel billboards too ! . And airtel is an Indian company !

  • Mr. Kolohe says:

    CCP dba Huawei
    Welcome to the Authoritarian Club Zambia!

  • Ilya Dyachuk says:

    Nooo, don't put the responsibility on the local governments, put the responsibility on China… They've all been bribed after all…

  • peter kimani says:

    Quartz is too anti-China

  • Sơn Võ says:

    Why, How Zambians find it's easy to speaking english, it truck me most when i was watching this video

  • J M says:

    Just say no to China!

  • lee ck says:

    So what has the west especially American elites contributed tangibly to the African countries???!!

  • Felixx Denolo says:

    China we are connecting the world to the internet.
    Elon Musk hold my beer

  • kky7972 says:

    China got money it's making deals. You sign up then it's on you. No crying its big boy league

  • Sơn Võ says:

    This is a kind of the conquering country ! ! I come from Vietnamese, so i am scare of that !

  • Reltpid says:

    Dictators met the control measures. You know what will happen next

  • Hana Fan says:

    1. No Signal, No Internet, no access to any website
    2. Signal Everywhere, can access almost every website on the internet except a few websites that banned by gov. (but you can still access it by using VPN)

    How do you choose?

  • law aloysius says:

    Well ,,, maybe better,maybe worse

  • Mr. HeavyDebater says:

    This is a much better system than the bureaucracy mess of dealing with foreign sub-contractors that can hold the entire country and its government by the neck with whatever they chose to implement. This has happened several times already in Australia, where despite being a 1st world country we still have 3rd world internet.

  • Rohan Pradhan says:

    Similar thing is happening in nepal

  • Alvin CA says:

    I do think let the local government has the internet sovereignty is a good idea. Or otherwise they will be interfered by the US politicians.

  • James Flores says:

    Wow censoring the internet is like watching Japanese p*rn.

  • XerosXIII says:

    Is democracy really the way when you don't even have internet for porn?

  • Jose Mathew says:

    Finally… After months of waiting….

  • EchoWhiskey says:

    Quartz just would like to see another type of internet, e.g., ….I just found out I can’t name any ones available here, oh wait, may be Quartz you can help to tear them down and build your own type of internet you want from scratch for them, then I will open a channel and interview some locals to hear what they have to say, they must be much much happier, I can’t wait to see that day.

  • Abhiraj Jana says:

    I mean red doesn't mean china you guys kept on showing an Indian telecom giant Airtel!

  • J Lin says:

    America only freely gives democracy to Africans instead of infrastructure

  • 王少 says:

    if China dominate the world, the people in this planet will meet a great future ! So plz support China to become No.1 , if you want a better life.

  • thesuperproify says:

    Chinese people :.. Breathes..

    Vice/Quartz/CNN/BBC/Fox : HoW ChINa PlAnS to MoNoPolisE OxyGen

  • buster crab says:

    this shows that america is all do nothing assholes , only China helps countries !! .

  • Shawn Chen says:

    This is the typical western media report with bias.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *