While the success of the Chinese technology giants has done much to end this stance, this week a real limit has been drawn. Russia and China are driving the next generation of Internet technology, and this time it is the US who are in danger of being left behind.
At the heart of this divide is the Chinese company Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications supplier and undisputed leader in 5G networks. Washington has denied Huawei any involvement in US 5G networks, threatening to cut it off from US software and components needed for the smartphone and networking business.
Whether or not you buy from Huawei is increasingly becoming a political litmus test that threatens to exacerbate the splitting of the global Internet into separate areas and accelerate the decline of the open, truly global Web as we know it.
Those who avoid Huawei are in danger of defaulting as the world moves toward the next level of Internet and communications technology.
But that's not as many as it should be. The Finnish company Nokia has signed twelve new 5G contracts in the last two months, Huawei just three. This despite the fact that Huawei is considered by many in the industry as the world leader in 5G and is able to significantly undercut its competitors in pricing.
The Shenzhen-based company is at the forefront of the escalating trade war between the US and China. One of his top executives was jailed in Canada under US accusations, banned from the US market, and Washington has been pressuring its allies to take action against the company.
On the one hand, there are allies in Beijing who have no problem with Huawei, with Russia just the latest big example. On the other hand, there are Washington and a handful of his closest allies who swore to shut out the Chinese company.
That does not mean that the US can not overtake and eventually overtake China. but it will probably be a fight.
The vision of the Internet as an open and shared platform on which technology and standards cross borders and evolve in a globalized way is one that has always been a guiding light rather than an actual reality.
This fragility has only become more obvious. Under China's leadership, more and more countries are turning against the principle of the open Internet and adopting Beijing's doctrine of cyber-sovereignty, in which governments rigorously monitor the boundaries of their own Internet networks, strengthen their own tech companies and force international competitors to do their bidding Locate data and make it available to domestic security agencies.
For a long time, this trend has been driven by Beijing, which has been happy to export technology and know-how to help countries set up their own, strictly controlled Internet, or to block a free and open Internet in Russia's case ,
With its campaign against Huawei, Washington has now accelerated this split as well.
Lightning fast 5G nets were predicted to bring us closer and closer. The Huawei divide could mean that it forces us apart.