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Workers laying cable in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Jens Köhler/ullstein bild via Getty Images

President Trump's executive order and the Commerce Department’s “Entity List” create new challenges for Huawei’s 5G wireless technology in the U.S. But in the meantime, the Chinese telecom giant is racing ahead under the world’s seas.

Why it matters: Globally, about 380 submarine cables carry the vast majority of international data, from cloud computing to text messaging. These cables will only become more important with the arrival of 5G and other services that will increase the speed and volume of data being transferred.

Where it stands: The underseas cable market is changing with the entrance of new players.

  • A decade ago, Chinese companies were involved with just a handful of cables, almost exclusively in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
  • Now China wants to dominate the global market. Huawei is building or improving nearly 100 submarine cables around the world.
  • At the same time, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other leading content providers are investing in their own underseas cable projects.

Between the lines: China’s digital silk road is where two of Xi Jinping’s signature policies meet:

  1. Made in China 2025 is aggressively growing high-tech industries with state subsidies and ambitious targets, including capturing 60% of the global market for fiber optic communications.
  2. The Belt and Road Initiative is an avenue for Chinese firms to expand into foreign markets and reach these targets, backed by a promised trillion dollars of infrastructure spending.

Flashback: History cautions that today’s commercial activities carry strategic stakes as well. In World War I, Britain was best positioned to maintain global communications among its forces and to monitor and disrupt enemy messages thanks to its network of cables.

The bottom line: So far, U.S. actions are focused on limiting Huawei’s access to Western markets. But to shape tomorrow’s communications networks, it would also have to compete in developing and emerging markets — especially in Asia and Africa, where 90% of global population growth by 2050 is expected.

Jonathan Hillman is director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker

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