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Constructing a New Silk Road

At the end of March 2015, the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China announced the publication of a manifesto to put new efforts into enforcing regional development and security, under the well-known brand Silk Road. That initiative, even when published by the National Development & Reform Commission, does reach out as considering Silk Road spanning across the nations if not continents too. For any business entity, would there be any issues to consider, is the world politics and the movement and trends there of any interest or relevance? This article aims to address these questions from a broad perspective.

Information, Roads & Avenues

As the old traditional Silk Road was characterised by paths, avenues and roads to support trade and business globally, the new Silk Road must indeed consider the questions of Cybersecurity and Information, not just roads and railways.

In doing that, the Chinese Initiative refers to Information Silk Road and paves the way for international security and development in that regards. It maintains that no single nation can uphold or develop critical infrastructure for the functioning cyber Silk Road, but coalitions and alliances need to be enforced. For that part, the Chinese tradition leans on Shanghai Cooperation Coalition, as forming partnerships between the Russians, Chinese and other relevant countries and regimes.

Nevertheless, more than just cables, the initiative and indeed the evolving Asian identity, or BRICS if we wish, needs to have a strong and developing identity as security provider also in the cyber domain, for the benefit of the economic ties and cooperation. While some other nations and alliances are declaring cybersecurity strategies where they maintain the need and form of nation-states to uphold their self-proclaimed global role, this initiative is more modest and aims to respect sovereignty and autonomy rather than try to create global caliphates.

Code of Conduct or Five Eyes

In the world political scene, in the post-national era, when the old legacy nations are eroding more and more, and various global businesses and transnational entities are gaining more relevance, have already developed distinctive ideologies on how to address the complex phenomena of cybersecurity.

Some coalitions are advancing surveillance powers in the efforts to provide security and proclaim security providers authority, an approach that has become known in the world by loosely referring to the term of the Five Eyes. This approach has its roots in the western conception of Enlightenment which Michel Foucault described as the modern society of surveillance. This was something he described in his famous research as the transition to replace barbaric middle-aged punishment. As the nations are considering new security solutions in the cyber domain, it is only understandable to lean on history. However, that maybe does not fully cover the issue or provide comprehensive consideration.

China has been advancing together with Russia and other partners something called Code of Conduct to be ratified in the United Nations. This by its nature and definition leans on common agreements and indeed the respect of sovereignty and co-existence rather than power or fear of surveillance. This is a relevant difference in the approach to global security mechanism, which is something global cyberspace is inevitably in the need of. Ideological differences between the two approaches, maybe reducible to the North/South, or BRICS/NATO antipodes, are highlighted by the non-existence of the other side of the coin, in the discourse of the matter locally. This is understandable from the political point of view, where the distinctive aims are serving as constructing the identity of the raising coalitions. However, for the businesses operating in the global cyberspace, that distinction does only a little good.

Implications for Businesses

World politics plays a decent role in the business of enterprises, however, the reality has been and mostly will be that the transnational organisations, enterprises and other entities, are left rather alone as with the security needs to operate in the cyberspace. Legacy nation-states only rarely are able to respond to the complex and global needs of enterprises, however, with proper consideration and awareness of the developments on the global scene, businesses can ensure that they operate with relevant partners and acknowledge the potential of growth for example of the enforced Information Silk Road between east and west. For the businesses, it is also relevant to commit in a peaceful development in the world to not to undermine the wonders and immense potential of a global marketplace and interconnectivity of diverse societies and cultures.

For any enterprise or large transnational business, it is more important than ever to commit and engage with the global dimension of the world. At the dawn of global consumer network this was thought to be valid mostly for the “dot com”-businesses, however today it is critical if not existential question for most of them. The question is not so much any more if the business operations are digitalised, but that if the business recognises the processes in world politics and is able to swiftly adapt to the rapidly changing environment.



Kristo Helasvuo, Guest Author.

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