The Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Emerging Technology Fellow Lindsay Gorman is out with a new report, A Future Internet for Democracies: Contesting China’s Dominance in 5G, 6G, and the Internet-of-Everything, in which she details the stakes of competition with China when it comes to 5G, 6G, and the generations and applications to follow. 

Lindsay writes that it’s crucial to U.S. and allied national security interests to get this right, but the current approach over-focuses on traditional espionage without considering how infrastructure dominance will create industry dominance – and how that industry dominance will affect governance for democracies for decades to come.

Key points from the report include:

  • Looking beyond 5G to 6G, the contest to shape 6G standards is already underway – with China leading the charge internationally. China leads the initial international technical focus group developing the first input into 6G standards, and is already using that focus group to promote a new internet protocol standard that would help centralize internet control in the hands of the state. As the United States plays catch up on 5G, this “Network 2030” initiative has been underway since 2018 under Chinese leadership.
  • Data in, propaganda out. Future Internet technology presents opportunities for influence of the information environment, including in applications that simultaneously perform big data collection. Chinese companies are building information platforms into application technologies, re-imagining the public square and private locales as tools for propaganda—political or otherwise—from advertising on ZTE’s Smart Street lights and to cars as “infotainment spaces” to Huawei’s big data approach to “smart tourism” and cultural heritage information and the China Broadcasting Network’s contribution to future internet standards-setting efforts. 
  • Commercial espionage in the Internet-of-Everything. Already victims of Chinese intellectual property theft to the tune of billions per annum, the United States and its democratic partners are ill-prepared to secure sensitive information as the Future Internet ecosystem explodes access points.
  • The authoritarian internet: The risks of a sizeable authoritarian presence in the democratic internet go beyond espionage, and focusing narrowly on the espionage threat—as U.S. diplomatic efforts in Europe and elsewhere have—fails to play to U.S. strengths. The report goes into detail about the risks of authoritarian internet dominance including personal data exfiltration, infrastructural dependence and geopolitical manipulation, and governance propagation.
  • Chinese leadership in International Standards Setting – China outnumbers the US nearly 2-to-1 in key bodies and groups: In contrast to the decentralized, industry-led approach that has historically been the mainstay of activity at international standards-setting bodies, China has taken a government-coordinated approach to leadership and prominence in setting 5G standards. This recognition of standards setting as a strategic priority has borne fruit in its growing influence in 5G standards. This coordinated strategy presents an asymmetric advantage in both international standards-setting bodies and more broadly the future internet deployment landscape. China also uses its influence at the UN to whitewash its AI-enabled human rights abuses under a banner of “AI for Good” and promotion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Read the report:

Please reach out to Rachael Dean Wilson or Kayla Goodson at if you are interested in speaking to Lindsay about the report.