The Rise of China’s Digital Authoritarianism
Date: Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Time: (Washington, DC 09:30 am), (Zurich, 03:30 pm), (New Delhi,07:00pm)
Event Type: Virtual (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter)
The “Skynet” system in 2005 marked the Chinese government’s foray into using technology as a tool to censor, repress and spy on its own citizens. The system built with the participation of Chinese tech companies has over time connected over 200 million CCTV cameras in China and is now the largest video surveillance system in the world. Under Xi Jinping, China’s use of technology to surveil, censor, propagandize and disinform has been relentless and he has overseen the morphing of China into a digital totalitarian state. Furthermore, the announcement of the Digital Silk Road (DSR) in 2015 as a centerpiece of China’s Belt and Road Initiative has enabled China to export its model of digital authoritarianism. The future looks even grimmer as the rise of Artificial Intelligence and new technologies prompted Xi Jinping to recently call on the party leadership and China for a “new pattern of development with a new security architecture.” What are the salient aspects of China’s digital authoritarianism? Are there democratic alternatives to the Chinese digital authoritarianism model? How can foreign governments and the international community counter the threat posed by China’s DSR initiative?
Senior Advisor for China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Freedom House
Principal and CEO, SECDEV Group and ZeroPoint Security
|Lobsang Gyatso Sither
Director of Technology, Tibet Action Institute Member of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile
Host, Freedom Hour, AFI
BIOGRAPHIES OF PARTICIPANTS
Sarah Cook is Senior Advisor for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan at Freedom House. She previously served as Research Director for China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, in which capacity she directed the China Media Bulletin, a monthly digest in English and Chinese providing news and analysis on media freedom developments related to China. Cook led the Beijing’s Global Media Influence project that resulted in a comprehensive cross-country study published in September 2022. Cook is also the author of several Asian country reports for Freedom House’s annual publications, as well as four special reports about China: Beijing’s Global Megaphone (2020), The Battle for China’s Spirit (2017), The Politburo’s Predicament (2015), and The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship (2013). Her comments and writings have appeared on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Before joining Freedom House, Sarah co-edited the English translation of A China More Just, a memoir by prominent rights attorney Gao Zhisheng, and was twice a delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva for an NGO working on religious freedom in China.
Rafal Rohozinski is a Canadian expert and practitioner active in the fields of information security, cyber warfare, and the globalization of armed violence. He is the Principal and CEO of SECDEV Group and ZeroPoint Security, Canadian-based firms specializing in cyber-risk. He is a senior fellow for Future Conflict & CyberSecurity at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK). Prior to founding SecDev, Rafal’s career spanned 37 countries including conflict zones in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and Africa. In academia he served as the director of the Advanced Network Research Group at the University of Cambridge and is the author and contributor to numerous publications, including “Stuxnet and in the future of Cyber War” and “Tracking Ghostnet”- the first evidence-based investigation of a dedicated cyber-espionage network.
Lobsang Gyatso Sither
Lobsang Gyatso Sither is the Director of Technology at the Tibetan Action Institute and a member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. Lobsang was named as one of the 32 innovators building a better future as part of the WIRED 2021 Smart list and has served on the Advisory Board of Citizen Clinic, a public-interest cybersecurity clinic at the University of California-Berkeley from 2018-2020. For more than 10 years, he has worked closely on digital security, censorship, and surveillance in Tibet and has helped to develop community-specific technologies and educational content via training and public awareness campaigns at the grassroots level. He has been interviewed as a cyber security and internet freedom expert by Tibetan as well as international media.
Sakina Batt is a producer at Meeting Point, a leading audio visual production house and buying agency in Nepal. She directs promotional videos, does voice overs, writes scripts and copywriting for the videos in Meeting Point. Sakina worked for Tibet TV at the Central Tibetan Administration in India for four years (2017-2021) where she served as a news presenter and an interview host. She also made short documentaries for the channel, wrote scripts, conducted research, edited videos and anchored the show In Conversation with Tibet TV. Sakina has a Masters in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and a bachelors from Delhi University.