Internet of things

Expert Voices

China is pulling ahead of North America on smart cities

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China is developing 500 smart cities — almost half the worldwide total, and more than 10 times North America's figure.

Why it matters: China's smart cities signal the country's strengths not only in technology and infrastructure, but in implementation.

Expert Voices

Competitors worry that China is using Belt and Road for political gain

China's President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the welcome ceremony for the Belt and Road Forum
Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during an event in 2017. Photo: Roman Pilipey/AFP via Getty Images

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) suffered a major setback this month when the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese infrastructure projects were inflated to help bail out Malaysia’s state development fund. The Malaysia affair, in which several big projects were pursued for political rather than economic reasons, is just one of 17 cases cited in a new U.S. Department of Defense report that argues China's BRI "serves a greater strategic purpose" than advertised.

The big picture: According to the report, China is using infrastructure and other ostensibly commercial projects through the BRI to help promote Chinese standards in everything from 5G networks to satellite services. As the BRI proceeds, China's partners are taking a closer look at its economic risks, and China's competitors are scrutinizing its strategic implications.