The new frontier of China-US competition

by Chris Zappone

This story about an online leaker in Zimbabwe’s president’s campaign contains an interesting line that relates directly to an emerging online cold war, discussed on this blog.

Someone in President Robert Mugabe’s office is posting inside information on a Facebook page, causing much embarrassment for the 89-year-old leader.

From the Daily Telegraph:

Determined attempts by senior Zanu-PF party officials to persuade Facebook to close the page failed and the president has now reportedly appealed to friends in the Chinese government for technical support to censor the site and identify its user.

When it comes to propping up an African strongman who has been in power for decades, it will certainly help if the internet infrastructure provider shares the same authoritarian values. Likewise, the freedom of the flow of political information, embraced by many Western countries, will increasingly become an irritant.

The companies linked to democracies will handle requests to block free speech online differently to countries that are authoritarian in nature themselves. This is an area to watch closely, as there are likely many more stories to surface.

And where there is struggle for influence, there may well be a battle of ideas.