A $500 million undersea fiber-optic internet cable network connecting Asia, the Middle East, and Europe is being developed by state-owned Chinese telecom companies to compete with a comparable U.S.-backed project, Reuters has reported.
The strategy is a warning that an escalating digital conflict between Beijing and Washington runs the risk of rupturing the web’s infrastructure.
According to Reuters citing four people with direct knowledge of the plan, China’s three major carriers, China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom), China Mobile Limited, and China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd (China Unicom), are developing one of the most cutting-edge and extensive subsea cable networks in the world.
The suggested cable, known as EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia), would connect Hong Kong to the Chinese province of Hainan before winding its way to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and France, according to Reuters.
The reports added that China’s HMN Technologies Co Ltd, a rapidly expanding cable company whose parent company was majority-owned by Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd would construct and lay the cable, which would cost about $500 million to complete.
In a response to Reuters, the Chinese foreign ministry stated that it has always encouraged Chinese enterprises to carry out foreign investment and cooperation without explicitly addressing the EMA cable project.
The information about the upcoming connection comes in the wake of a Reuter’s report from last month, which showed how the U.S. government has effectively prevented several Chinese underwater cable projects abroad over the past four years due to concerns that Beijing could eavesdrop on internet communications.
Additionally, Washington has halted the licensing of projects sponsored by Google LLC, Meta Platforms, Inc., and Amazon.com Inc. that would have built private underwater cables linking the US and the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.