Tuesday, November 29

Taiwan receives 95% of its Internet through submarine cables vulnerable to China. Now she fears being isolated


The war in Ukraine is having a peculiar effect in the Pacific, thousands of miles from kyiv: it has fueled the suspicion with which Taiwan views its fragile Internet connection. More than with the infrastructure of its Network, which also, the fear of the Asian island is explained by its complex geopolitical scenario, the strained relationship with Beijing and the example that the government of Volodymyr Zelensky is setting.

If the war in Ukraine is making anything clear, it is that the Internet is already a key factor on every war board. Since the Kremlin troops crossed the borders of his country, Zelensky’s team has turned to the networks to report the situation, transmit messages and even ask other institutions and companies for help. One of the names that best exemplifies the scope of the Network is Mykalio Feodorovdeputy prime minister of the country and head of the Digital Transformation portfolio, who went so far as to appeal directly to Elon Musk or Tim Cook via Twitter for help.

Information is largely power and the strategy of the Ukrainian Executive has helped it strengthen your stamina against Russia, counter the Kremlin’s speech and gather support. Beyond the benefit it is getting from the Internet, kyiv has also shown the strategic role played by the Internet. Ukraine knows. Russia knows. And other international actors, such as Taiwan or China, also know it, two territories that have maintained a tense relationship for a long time.

a fragile system

There, in the waters of the Pacific, between the East and South China seas, there is a situation not much less complex than the one that existed until February 24 between Ukraine and the Kremlin. Beijing considers Taiwan a separatist province, a vision that does not coincide with the image that the Taipei government has of itself and that “collides” in a certain way with the fact that the island has its own Constitution, is governed by democratically chosen leaders and has active troops.

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Although today there are no signs indicating that China is going to resort to arms to claim its dominance on the island, the situation between the two territories It’s anything but smooth. Just half a year ago, in October 2021, the Taiwanese defense minister, Chiu Kuo Sheng, warned that China will have the capacity to invade the island by the middle of the decade.

“It is the toughest situation I have found myself in in more than 40 years of military life,” confessed the Taiwanese president after a hundred and a half Chinese planes flew over the island’s air defense zone coinciding with the national holiday of the Asian Giant.

In 2012, the technology giants controlled 10% of the capacity of submarine cables.  Today it is 66%

But… What do the tensions between Beijing and Taipei have to do with the Internet and the war in Ukraine? Well, as pointed out The Wall Street Journal, it is not unreasonable to think that both China and Taiwan have taken good note of the benefit that Zelensky is taking from the networks during the Russian invasion. The first to keep it in mind in case a similar scenario occurs in the Pacific. The second, to become aware of how fragile their connection is to Internet.

If Ukraine has a broad connection spread across its borders, robust enough to allow a large area of ​​the country to remain online despite Russian attacks, the situation in Taiwan is diametrically opposite. 95% of the data and voice traffic it sends and receives is channeled through cables that run along the seabed, just 14 conduits that connect to land through just four points on the Taiwanese coast.

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“We are very vulnerable”recognizes TWSJ Kenny Huang, director of the Taiwan Network Information Center. A submarine attack or the destruction of the stations would make it difficult —if necessary— for the territory to have access to the valuable tool that Ukraine has used to, among other things, request “unlimited aid”. “Looking at Ukraine’s highly effective use of the media, Beijing would likely judge that disconnecting Taiwan from the world would greatly improve China’s chances of success,” acknowledges Ivan Kanapathy, former Security Council director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia. National of the White House, to the New York newspaper.

This amazing 3D map shows the 426 submarine cables that connect countries and continents to the internet

The fear is not unique to Taipei. Japan, which also relies heavily on submarine wiring, is equally concerned about being affected by a hypothetical conflict between China and Taiwan or other islands claimed by the Asian giant. Its insular condition places it in a situation somewhat similar to that of Taiwan: a good part of the cables reach just a couple of seasons.

Without cables, the Taiwan authorities would have a satellite connection; but its capacity is considerably more limited. When Starlink offered help to the Ukraine, for example, the efficiency of the service required special terminals. For now, the Taiwanese government is already promoting new cables and the US has given its approval to a new connection with the island and the Philippines.

Via | The Wall Street Journal



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