China's Xi Asks ASEAN Nations to Join in Building of 'Digital Silk Road'

Xi Jinping pushed for digitally enhanced trade among Southeast Asian nations in a keynote at the China-ASEAN Expo on Friday.

Nov 27, 2020 at 9:18 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:35 a.m. UTC

Xi Jinping took the chance to push for greater digital unity among Southeast Asian nations in a recorded keynote at the China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, China, on Friday.

  • The Chinese president said he would work toward greater cooperation among the 10 ASEAN nations, and promote a “digital Silk Road” in the region, according to the South China Morning Post.
  • The speech comes in an apparent attempt to strengthen China's position locally, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said he would work with regional allies to take on China's might.
  • Xi said, “China regards ASEAN as a priority in its neighborhood diplomacy and a key area for high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative” – a major infrastructure and economic development project underway since 2013.
  • The bloc could work with China to establish a “China-ASEAN digital port to promote digital connectivity, and build a ‘digital Silk Road,'" the president said.
  • So far there is no suggestion that the digitization proposal would use blockchain underpinnings, but Xi has previously touted the technology across the Chinese economy.
  • According to the report, China has been trying to build closer ties with ASEAN countries – which include the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia – amid the trade war that developed under Donald Trump.
  • ASEAN members were not initially universally keen on Xi’s proposed digital Silk Road, according to an international relations expert cited in the report.
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