China wants a shiny new internet — and you may like what the country has in mind. Its plan promises a network fast enough to show you as a live hologram in a video chat, secure enough to block data deluge attacks that crush websites, flexible enough to easily accommodate Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite-powered broadband and responsive enough to let you drive a car remotely.
But there’s a big problem with this proposal, called New IP, that Huawei and China’s three powerful state-owned telecommunications companies are pushing. It’s freighted with political and technological baggage that mean its chances for success are low.
New IP would shift control of the internet, both its development and its operation, to countries and the centralized telecommunications powers that governments often run. It would make it easier to crack down on dissidents. Technology in New IP to protect against abuse also would impair privacy and free speech. And New IP would make it harder to try new network ideas and to add new network infrastructure without securing government permission, say critics in the competing effort to improve existing internet technology.
“What problem is it the Chinese think they’re going to solve? The problem is they’re not in control. They want to be in control of the internet,” said James Lewis, director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, in an interview. “What’s driving this is politics, not technology.”