Experts discuss how to defeat techno authoritarianism and win digital competition in Red China


At this week’s event, experts will be talking about digital ecosystems, including 5G communications networks and social media environments, as the United States and other democracies compete and defend against communist China in areas important to national security. Discussed how to maintain and strengthen the system. Promote democratic value in Asia and around the world.

“Beijing is at the heart of the evolving digital order of Asia,” said Senior Fellow Director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Washington, DC, which hosted the event. Said Lisa Curtis. It was held on May 27 under the theme of “Promoting a Liberal Digital Order in the Indo-Pacific”.

“This poses a series of challenges for the United States and its democratic partners and allies, from potential compromises of critical networks to the development of new technical standards in favor of Chinese companies and undermining civil liberties.” She said.

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Huawei and 5G signatures exhibited at the 10th Global Mobile Broadband Forum hosted by Chinese tech giant Huawei on October 15, 2019 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Stefan Wermuth / AFP via Getty Images)

With Beijing’s support, the controversial Chinese telecommunications company Huawei has become a major concern and target of opposition from democracies after its rapid penetration into markets around the world.

Martijn Rasser, Senior Fellow of Technology and National Security at CNAS, said the concern about the proliferation of Huawei-supported 5G infrastructure is that telecommunications companies are directly responsible to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). A critical infrastructure with potential vulnerabilities that could affect national security.

“Can you trust to outsource access and maintenance of critical infrastructure to an authoritarian regime with a completely different perspective on the world order and with very revisionist power?” Russell asked. “That’s really the heart of the matter.”

Jonathan E. Hillman, Senior Fellow of the Economic Program and Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Reconnecting Asia Project, said the key to overcoming Chinese state-owned enterprises like Huawei would be some government support. .. For telecommunications companies in democracies. He pointed out a warning example of Nortel, a Canadian-based bankruptcy filing in 2009, now out of business, but previously a leading telecommunications company.

“There is no Nortel anymore,” Hillman said. “Huawei eventually hired all engineers to work on 5G, and it is unlikely that China would allow companies with such strategic potential to go bankrupt. Interests in this area. And I think there is a new understanding of the importance of making those domestic investments. “

Hillman also suggests that telecommunications companies in advanced democracies need to aggressively enter and compete in emerging and overlooked markets as they work to build 5G networks. did.

“In response to all criticisms of Huawei, as a company, with the benefit of state support, intellectual property theft and security issues have emerged not only in Asia and Africa, but also in overlooked markets. It was also because of the willingness to enter, even in the countryside of Montana, “Hilman said. “I think we need to be willing to compete, especially in emerging markets where global population growth and economic growth are expected.”

Rasser of CNAS said it was important not only to compete with companies such as Huawei, but also to provide the desired 5G technology, and that the United States recently succeeded in creating an industry standard for telecommunications called Open RAN. As mentioned (“Open Radio Access Network”), this allows cellular networks to interoperate with hardware and software from different vendors. The standard is expected to lower barriers to entry and promote software innovation.

He said the innovative Open RAN standard is part of a communications collaboration package agreed upon by US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier this month.

“The United States and South Korea have agreed to pursue 5G and 6G technology, Open RAN technology as part of their package, without the involvement of Chinese companies. This is a big step for South Korea. South Korea has so far. We haven’t come out much, especially Huawei, “said Lasser.

In addition to building 5G networks, the area of ​​social media, which is a major concern related to data security, disinformation and censorship, is also important to the development of a digital order based on democratic values ​​by event attendees. Identified.

Figure-2 Citizen Lab wechat censorship
A user with a Chinese account (L) is trying to send a politically sensitive image in a WeChat group chat from the Citizen Lab test in January 2017. (Provided by Citizen Lab)

While the CCP is actively promoting its views on US social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, it is subject to direct monitoring and control by the Chinese Communist Party on its own social media such as TikTok and WeChat. We are also promoting the global expansion of apps.

Sarah Cook, head of research for Freedom House, a non-profit organization in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said China’s efforts in controlling and manipulating social media have been rapidly strengthened in recent years.

“One of the things we’ve seen over the last decade is, in fact, how much China has changed in terms of how authoritarian it is domestically and how aggressive it is internationally. That’s it, “she said.

After she established her presence on the international social media platform, she showed that CCP-linked actors would use their accounts in coordinated hostile impact campaigns if it would benefit CCP. Said that.

“We are seeing different examples in different places. Once a foothold or some kind of content dissemination system is established, it can look harmless at first, such as panda videos and bullet trains. I know there is Chinese state media on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, but suddenly they really push when it’s really important to the Chinese Communist Party. When they feel the need, they start the activity. That. “

Cook warned that the international social media influence campaign originating from Beijing is becoming more and more serious in its implications for national security in the United States and other democracies.

“When it comes to some of the systematic dishonest behavior on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the Chinese Communist Party and various parties involved in such activities are no longer concerned only with the image of China. They are no longer protesting in Hong Kong and what’s happening in the new ji [Chinese] Belt and Road [initiative] Is really successful. There are examples of efforts to sow the seeds of division in other countries, including the United States, intensify panic in the early stages of the pandemic of coronavirus infection, and divide the alliance between Europe and countries such as Serbia. “

Authoritarian China can use US social media apps in a destructive way, while also collecting large amounts of data from abroad through its own social media apps and subjecting them to rigorous censorship from a distance. Cook pointed out CCP censorship of the Chinese app WeChat against American users as an example of how China could monitor and control its activity on Chinese social media apps. Regarding WeChat, she said, “American citizens who want to communicate with other Chinese Americans, even on topics related to Asian American issues, and in some cases Chinese Americans are blocked from censorship. There is a “document about levels”.

“Are Chinese tech companies really monitoring and censoring users, keeping international users away from the platform and intervening in the communication that politicians make with voters?” WeChat is already doing that. So the answer is “yes,” Cook said.

Young people using computers at an internet cafe in Beijing
Young people using computers at an internet cafe in Beijing. A panel hosted by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China states that the United States can leverage trade and technology to help counter China’s censorship and surveillance made possible through the same trade and technology. (Li Jin / AFP / Getty Images)

TikTok, a social media app owned by China, is a video sharing platform that has gained worldwide popularity in recent years. Last year, the Tik administration tried to ban the TikTok app from the United States because of the privacy and security threats it poses.

CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine has expressed overt confusion as to why the app (Beijing-based parent company ByteDance supports CCP) is a serious national security concern for sovereign states. It seems.

“Efforts to ban TikTok did not really identify what the harm we were worried about. By the Chinese Communist Party when our children were dancing. it is advertised, whether the ad that to accept the “Xi Jinping idea” is displayed, or TikTok it from whether there is a possibility of access to personal information, so as to be able to party to get it, stolen to them What exactly is the harm that justifies intervening to get rid of what people find valuable? “

Freedom House Cook said it’s important to “play local and more open rules for compromised social media apps such as TikTok and find the right balance of regulation in terms of the data we collect about our users.” It states.

But Jared Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw, a division of Google investigating threats to open societies, including disinformation and censorship, warned that the Chinese Communist Party was showing that it wasn’t following international rules. ..

“China follows a completely different set of rules,” Cohen said. “We have a line that must not be crossed, we have values ​​that we must follow, and they follow a very different set of rules … they define the rules as they like.”

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