Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Wednesday predicted that the web will split in two in the next decade, CNBC reports.
Speaking at a private event in San Francisco, Schmidt said that he believes China will successfully split away and create its own internet.
“I believe the most likely situation now isn’t a splintering, but somewhat a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America,” he said.
“If you have a look at China, and I was just there, the scale of the companies that are being built, the services being built, the wealth that is being created is phenomenal. Chinese Web is a greater percentage of the GDP of China, which is a big number, than the same percentage of the US, which is also a big number.
If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.”
Schmidt has flagged up Chinese technological advancement before. In November of last year he warned the US that it would have to step up its game if it didn’t want to be outgunned by China on AI, predicting that it would be a world leader in the industry by 2030.
He also said on Wednesday that other countries could end up adopting a Chinese model of the internet. “Look at the way BRI works — their Belt and Road Initiative, which involves 60-ish countries — it’s perfectly possible those countries will begin to take on the infrastructure that China has with some loss of freedom.”
The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s infrastructure project to link itself to 70 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania with railways and shipping lanes.
Google has recently come under fire for its dealings with China over reports that current CEO Sundar Pichai held government talks about launching a censored version of Google search there. The reports sparked outrage both within and without, with some employees resigning in protest and human rights groups calling on Pichai to reverse the decision.