China’s Tech-Enhanced Authoritarianism

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

The Chinese Communist Party’s priority is to pre-empt all perceived threats to state security, which means the Party must not only protect its existing power, but also continuously expand its power outward. Information fuels the CCP’s power protection and enables the tools used to make it stick. Tools include “smart cities' technologies” and the “social credit system”. Both contribute to the generation and organization of data and are instruments for reaching the CCP’s desired political outcomes. The Party’s underlying strategies are old, but technology allows the party to blur the line between its cooperative and coercive forms of control. Technology is used to make the Party’s political control inseparable from China’s social and economic development, and so it is always multipurpose — solving problems and enhancing efforts such as surveillance. The CCP’s power-expansion effort does not stop at China’s geographic borders, largely because the Party’s state security strategy places the Party’s political and ideological security at its core. As it expands power outward, the CCP aims to re-shape global governance. It attempts to control international discourse on China and the channels through which individuals, businesses, and governments, can engage with China. It expects technology to enhance the sophistication of this process.

About the speaker

Samantha Hoffman is an Analyst the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, a Fellow at China Forum, and independent consultant. In 2018, she was a Visiting Fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin. She also worked as a consultant for the IISS (2012-2018) and IHS Markit (2012-2017). Her research explores the domestic and global implications of the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to state security. The research offers new ways of thinking about how to understand and respond to China’s technology-enhanced political and social control efforts, including developments like the social credit system and smart cities. Dr. Hoffman holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Nottingham (2017), and an MSc in Modern Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford (2011), and BA degrees in International Affairs and East Asian Languages & Cultures from the Florida State University (2010).

Before the seminar

All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House from 3.30pm for an informal discussion with the guest speaker before the seminar.

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.