Competition between the United States and China in 5G involves more than economic and technology leadership. Also at stake are the cybersecurity and integrity of next-generation cellular networks. These three dimensions of the 5G competition—economics, technology, and security—are intertwined.

Daniel Gonzales, Julia Brackup, Spencer Pfeifer, Timothy M. Bonds, “Securing 5G: A Way Forward in the U.S. and China Security Competition,” RAND Corporation, May 12, 2022

RAND provides a very informative and useful look at the complexities of global competition over 5G. Read the entire report if you have time, but if not, the report’s findings and recommendations provide much food for thought going forward. I particularly appreciate the report’s nuance, highlighting both the complexity of the challenge and the difficulty of clearly identifying the winners and losers, particularly when the race has just started (at least for the U.S.) and the finish line is hard to spot.

I’d offer though that going forward, important, high profile studies like these must begin to introduce the scope of China’s comprehensive digital strategy (Digital China), China’s catalogue of competitive technologies beyond 5G (New Type Infrastructure), the integrated technology ecosystems built from these technologies, and the range of technology roles that companies like Huawei play in creating these ecosystems, both domestically and internationally.

As complex as the challenge of technology competition may seem, we are still making it way too easy on ourselves. Evaluating the individual building blocks is critical, but as RAND reminds us, understanding and answering the intertwined challenge of economics, technology, and security is just as important. This is going to take a whole lot more work from all of us.

China began thinking this through 20 years ago, and it took just about all of that time for its comprehensive digital strategy to finally emerge. We’re just starting.