Digital Threads Between the U.S. and China

As the world’s two superpowers grow further apart, the internet environments in the U.S. and China are increasingly separate digital worlds. U.S. internet companies have mostly flopped in China, and with notable exceptions, apps from China haven’t gone big outside their home country.

Digital life in each country is largely walled off from the other, but the two online spheres are not totally isolated. There is a cross-fertilization of digital ideas between the U.S. and China as well as threads of interdependence, showing that hard borders and political divisions are not absolute roadblocks to the internet bringing a fractured world a bit closer together.

The shreds of ties still existing between the parallel digital spheres of China and the U.S. demonstrate both the failure of the idea that the internet can break down nationalist walls, and that online innovations can slip past borders and censorship.

For sure, the divisions are real. It’s hard to overstate just how different the online experiences are for people in China and the U.S.