Case: Indonesia's high-speed railway
Type: Infrastructure (Transport)
The 142.3 km high-speed line, which cuts the journey between Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta, and the 4th largest city, Bandung, from over three hours to 40 minutes, is a flagship project that synergizes the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Indonesia's vision of the Global Maritime Fulcrum. With a speed of 350 km per hour, Indonesia's Whoosh railway is the first overseas high-speed railway project that fully uses Chinese railway systems, technology and industrial components. Whoosh is operated by PT KCIC, a joint venture of four Indonesian state companies with Beijing's China Railway International.
According to statistics provided by Kereta Cepat Indonesia China, 45,000 Indonesian employees were trained on-site through institutions and by their Chinese teachers during the high-speed railway's construction. Indonesian officials say the high-speed railway is expected to improve economic productivity. They also tout the fact that the trains are powered by electricity, which will help reduce the country's carbon footprint.
Source: Xinhua/Xu Qin (2023)
Type: Infrastructure (Information and Communication Technology, ICT)
Duration: 2011 to present
Organisation: Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Aside from the commonly known tangible parts of the BRI, the Silk Road Economic Belt (land route) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (sea route), a third “Silk Road” was also launched by China in 2015. The “Information Silk Road”, since rebranded as the Digital Silk Road (DSR), has the stated objective of enhancing global communication linkages and accelerating the globalisation of Chinese tech firms.
Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. has been constructing thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cable networks in the country alongside band transceiver stations, or towers, that can facilitate wireless communication in various regions so that 5G technology can be accessed evenly across the Indonesian islands. Huawei has signed contracts with Indosat Ooredoo, Indonesia’s second-largest telecommunication firm, for the installation of 5G infrastructure in some regions of Indonesia, along with offering training on 5G technology to 100,000 Indonesians on 5G technology. Huawei also announced that it was collaborating with Indonesia’s Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in three fields: artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and 5G networks.
Besides hard aspects, the implementation of China's DSR in Indonesia also involves soft aspects, which mainly focus on strengthening understanding and acceptance of China's growing digital foothold among the Indonesian people. Huawei has also initiated a digital talent training programme in more than 33 colleges and universities in Indonesia, which aims to equip young Indonesians with knowledge and skills in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and the cloud.
Image: Huawei Indonesia signed MoU with Telkom University [Photo: tek.id]
 “BPPT, Huawei team up to develop AI, cloud and 5G,” The Jakarta Post, 13 October 2020.
Digital Belt and Road Initiative
China’s Digital Silk Road (DSR) was launched in 2015 as a component of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s vast vision for global connectivity. The DSR aims to improve digital connectivity in participating countries. According to Bloomberg's estimate, by 2018, DSR-related investments in digital infrastructure projects outside of China had reached $79 billion.
On the macro level, the DSR is about the development and interoperability of critical digital infrastructure such as terrestrial and submarine data cables, 5G cellular networks, data storage centers, and global satellite navigation systems. At the micro level, the DSR promotes connectivity between local businesses and consumers and among businesses and consumers. Examples include e-commerce, taxi-hailing, fintech (financial technology), and edtech (education technology) platforms and apps, as well as hardware such as routers, smartphones, and PCs.