Is the internet already segmented between China and the west?

World Internet Conference

China is hosting the World Internet Conference at the Wuzhen Summit. Traditionally what has been a summit comprised of mostly Chinese technology companies has made bold steps at gaining international prominence over the last couple of year.

They first recruited the then ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé as the co-chair for advisory committee for the World Internet Conference followed by a few more.

That was followed by the appearances of Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) and Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), CEO of two of the biggest technology firms, but since, the 2018 edition is remarkably Chinese in flavour.

Innovation on a policed internet

Number of Chinese Websites
Growth in Number of Chinese Website

Internet in China is strictly controlled and western technology firms have struggled to either enter or keep hold of their business in face of competition as well as PR issues. Take the case of Google who exited China, albeit arguably with some reluctance, due to the censorship demanded by the Chinese Government.

“West” and the western ideals has been traditionally against what Chinese regulators calls “Cyber Sovereignty”, a euphemism given by the Chinese government to the censorship and policing of the Internet. But the lack of US & Western tech firms presence in China has fostered and in cases led to innovation in technology and consumption which is on par with the western technology dominance.

China has already penetrated the market with Alibaba and Tencent becoming two of the top 10 most valuable companies.

The contrast between the Western and Chinese technology industries is about to reach fever pitch within the next decade. As already several industry leaders have predicted that internet will likely split between China and Rest of the World.

Size of the Chinese Market vs Western Ethics

Internet users in china
Growth of Chinese Internet users

The lack of competitive presence of the US and western tech firms in China can be attributed to both the Chinese “Cyber Sovereignity” conflicting with the western ethics.

But the size of Chinese market is compelling the Googles and Facebooks to explore building Chinese versions of their products compliant with Chinese rules. It’s only a matter of time before these tech firms start building products which are specific to China. 

And this is where the chasm is forming, there eventually (or most likely) will be a Chinese version of the Internet, filled with products and Chinese censorship rules, and, a western version of the Internet, comparatively more open and inclusive.

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