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  • Author: Joshua Fitt
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Many of China’s technology companies perfect their products in the domestic market by facilitating the party-state’s oppression and data control, and subsequently seek to export the technology to fledgling authoritarian states or nations with fragile democracies. This is part of Beijing’s strategy to enhance its digital instruments of national power, normalize illiberal uses of technology, and equip foreign governments with the tools to replicate aspects of the CCP’s authoritarian governance model. If Washington wants to blunt this strategy, the US government needs to implement a comprehensive strategy of its own to address this.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Governance, Law, Authoritarianism, Grand Strategy, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Patricia M. Kim
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: As strategic competition between the United States and China intensifies, preventing a destabilizing arms race and lowering the risk of military, especially nuclear, confrontation is critical. The essays in this volume—based on a series of workshops convened by USIP’s Asia Center in late 2020—highlight both the striking differences and the commonalities between U.S. and Chinese assessments of the root causes of instability and the drivers of conflict in the nuclear, conventional missile and missile defense, space, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence realms.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Peace, Artificial Intelligence, Strategic Competition, Strategic Stability
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: The year 2020 was characterized by the intensification of US-China confrontation and strategic competition, which had been pointed out in the Strategic Annual Report 2019, in all areas from military and security affairs as well as dominance in advanced technologies and supply chains to narratives on coronavirus responses. Amid this confrontation, the rules-based international order faced even more severe challenges; the multilateral framework established after World War II with the United Nations at its core lost its US leadership and fell into serious dysfunction. While the international community is struggling to cope with the rapidly expanding outbreak of the novel coronavirus, China has been moving to expand its influence through increasingly authoritarian and assertive domestic and international policies on the rule of law and territorial issues, as well as through economic initiatives such as the existing “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and its responses to the pandemic. The confrontation with the United States is becoming more and more pronounced, and the Indo-Pacific region is turning itself into divided and contested oceans. In this transforming strategic environment, expressions of support for the vision of a rulesbased “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) that Japan has been promoting for the past several years, or announcements of similar visions have followed one after the other. The year 2020 also saw significant strengthening of the cooperative framework among four countries – Japan, the United States, Australia, and India (QUAD) – together with the enhancement of bilateral cooperation between countries in this group. At the same time, progress was also made in a regional cooperation framework that includes China with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement in East Asia. The Strategic Annual Report 2020 looks back at major international developments since last year’s Report through the end of 2020, focusing on the transformation of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region and the response of the international community.
  • Topic: International Relations, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Multilateralism, COVID-19, Destabilization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Middle East, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Tim Maurer, Arthur Nelson
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: In February 2016, a few months after Carnegie began its work on this project, a cyber attack shook the finance world. Hackers had targeted SWIFT, the global financial system’s main information network, trying to steal 1 billion U.S. dollars, nearly 0.50 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP, from the Bangladeshi central bank over the course of a weekend. It was a wake-up call revealing that cyber threats targeting the financial sector were no longer limited to low-level theft but could now pose systemic risk. Only a few months earlier, in 2015, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had launched an initiative to better protect the global financial system against cyber threats. Our first step was to develop a proposal for the G20 to launch a work stream dedicated to cybersecurity in the financial sector. In March 2017, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors outlined an initial road map to increase the cyber resilience of the international financial system. In the wake of the Bangladesh incident, Carnegie expanded its work, complementing the G20 project with the development of an action-oriented, technically detailed cyber resilience capacity-building tool box for financial institutions. Launched in 2019 in partnership with the IMF, SWIFT, FS-ISAC, Standard Chartered, the Global Cyber Alliance, and the Cyber Readiness Institute, this tool box is now available in seven languages. And we are continuing to track the evolution of the cyber threat landscape and incidents involving financial institutions through a collaboration with BAE Systems. To raise more awareness among senior officials of the growing threat, Carnegie also hosted a series of roundtables at the Munich Security Conference, including a cyber war game, dedicated to cybersecurity and the financial system. We co-hosted a high-level roundtable with the IMF for central bank governors and launched a workshop series at Wilton Park to strengthen the relationships among financial authorities, industry, and law enforcement as well as national security agencies. In July 2019, an international group—convened by Carnegie—of leading experts in governments, central banks, industry, and the technical community decided that there would be value in developing a longer-term international cybersecurity strategy for the financial system. This report is the result of that project and offers a vision for how the international community could better protect the financial system against cyber threats. The recommendations are designed to inform the deliberations among the G20, the G7, relevant standard-setting bodies as well as the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum and the Munich Security Conference. Written by Carnegie experts, this document includes feedback obtained through consultations with more than 200 stakeholders in government, the financial regulatory community, industry, and academia. An international advisory group, formed in fall 2019, provided strategic advice throughout the project. In February 2020, following Carnegie’s presentation of this project at the Forum’s annual meeting in Davos the previous month, the World Economic Forum became an official partner.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Finance, Non-Traditional Threats
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Ian Williams
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: For decades, China has engaged in a fervent game of “catch-up” with U.S. military capabilities. This effort, which has ballooned China’s defense spending to 620 percent of its 1990 level, is beginning to bear real fruit. While still far from achieving military parity, China’s military technology and doctrine are quickly coalescing into a coherent form of warfare, tailored to overpowering the U.S. military in a short, sharp conflict in the Eastern Pacific. This strategy of “informationized” warfare focuses first on eroding U.S. situational awareness, communications, and precision targeting capabilities.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Weapons , Military Spending, Conflict, Surveillance
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael A. Carrier
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Big Tech is in the news. At the center of our political and economic dialogue is the effect that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have on our lives and what, if anything, governments should do about it. In this article, I explain how Big Tech has come under scrutiny, the antitrust implications of the industry’s behavior, and the potential remedy of breaking up the companies.
  • Topic: Economics, Government, Science and Technology, Regulation, Internet, Social Media, Business
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Brandon Daigle, Paul Pawluk, David Kaczmarek
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Each year, The International Security Studies Program (ISSP) at the Fletcher School, Tufts University conducts SIMULEX, a major crisis management exercise where participants assume the roles of national policy makers in an international scenario. Throughout this three-day event, the exercise focuses on a highly realistic, near-future scenario involving key players on the world stage. SIMULEX exposes participants to the constraints and opportunities facing policy makers in the quest of making the best possible decisions and enacting associated actions. As representatives of various national and international teams, participants are charged with developing strategy and the necessary tasks required to achieve their country specific goals while driving efforts to bring the global crisis to a preferred end state. In an atmosphere of conflict escalation, SIMULEX stresses leadership in uncertainty, crisis management, team building, adaptability, and policy negotiation skills.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Leadership, Crisis Management, Higher Education
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Terry Babcock-Lumish, Tania Chacho, Tom Fox, Zachary Griffiths
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
  • Abstract: As the Indo-Pacific region enters a period of uncertainty, this monograph details the proceedings of West Point’s 2019 Senior Conference 55. Scholars and practitioners convened to discuss and debate strategic changes, and experts shared thoughts during keynote addresses and panels on economics, security, technology, and potential futures in this critically important region.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, Armed Forces, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Asia, North America, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Kelly M. McFarland
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • Abstract: In recent years, a growing number of governments, non-state actors, and citizens have rapidly expanded their use of pernicious information operations against other countries and even their fellow citizens. Social media and the internet have become the main tool. The current technological revolution has lowered the cost of entry for those wishing to spread misinformation and disinformation. Some use the internet to propagate an alternative version of the global order they seek to dominate, to damage a regional rival, or to influence their own or others’ elections. The players, tactics, tools, and topics will continue to expand in the months and years ahead, and the coronavirus pandemic has only enhanced the salience of these activities. Information operation campaigns sow confusion, further divide deeply partisan societies, and are an existential threat to democracies around the world. Thus far, governmental, tech sector, and civil society responses have fallen short, although some have fared better than others. In fall 2019 and the spring 2020, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy convened a series of working group meetings that included academics and practitioners, private sector specialists, and representatives from civil society. The attendees mapped out this space and identified the challenges inherent in this new form of incipient and widespread information operations. This group also identified potential areas of further engagement, collaboration, and research within the private sector, academia, and civil society. Ultimately, the group came up with a set of principles and policy recommendations for governments, private sector companies, and civil society to enact in both the near-and-long-term in order to mitigate information operations.
  • Topic: Government, Science and Technology, Information Technology
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jerry Hendrix
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: This paper seeks to both explore and understand the first “Sputnik Moment” in all of its facets. It will investigate its origins; how it came as such a surprise to so many outside of the White House and the intelligence community; and how various groups—to include leaders in the Soviet Union, the separate American military services, the scientific and engineering communities and, finally, opposing political forces within the United States—moved to leverage the “moment” to their own advantage. Because of this phenomenon, great investments were made in the U.S. military, the National Air and Space Administration was created, and the U.S. public educational system was overhauled to place greater emphasis on science and engineering within its curriculums. This study will also seek to distill lessons learned from the first “Sputnik Moment” and to examine the question of whether such an event could happen again and, if so, what would be the modern reactions?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Science and Technology, Space
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States of America
  • Author: Thomas J. Duesterberg
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: The imperative to return supply chains to the United States for products important to national defense, medical security, and competitiveness in key industrial and technology sectors is not new. The explosive growth of the Chinese manufacturing sector, its mercantilist challenge to the world trading system, and its impact on jobs and industrial leadership in the United States is well known and well documented. This challenge has prompted new research and policies to help reverse the erosion of US supply chains. US technology leadership has been undermined by China’s forced technology transfer, theft of intellectual property, and subsidization of traditional and new higher technology sectors. In turn, the loss of global markets and US manufacturing jobs have resulted in social problems of increasing devastation to communities in industrial areas. China’s economic growth depends, in a historically unprecedented way, on its export model and the suppression of domestic consumption. This results in a cycle of overproduction, expansion of external spheres of economic influence, and dumping of products abroad. In recent years, the United States has begun to challenge the Chinese model. However, much work remains to be done to accomplish the goal of ending mercantilist practices, establishing a level playing field for US producers, and reinvigorating domestic production. Critical supply chains for US national defense and high technology leadership have become overly dependent on China and other foreign sources. The vulnerability of supply chains has been demonstrated by interruptions in supply of key materials by both natural disasters and political decisions such as Beijing’s cutoff of rare earth metals a decade ago. More recently, in July 2020, the production of critical personal protective equipment was interrupted by massive flooding in the interior of China. Beyond Beijing’s unfair practices, China is a continental economy with the ambition to displace the United States as the leader in the global economy of the 21st century and has the economies of scale to represent a serious, long term threat to US leadership and markets. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these preexisting trends and underscores the importance of bringing industrial supply chains, including medical products, back to the United States. First, the cut-off of medical supplies, not just from China but from Europe and other allies, brought the vulnerabilities of relying on outside sourcing into clearer and more immediate focus. Ninety countries blocked the exports of medical products during the early months of the pandemic. Second, border closures around the world, even within the European Union (EU), added to the worries about supply chain interruptions, including for workers and logistics. Seventy percent of the world’s points of entry restricted foreign travelers at some point as the pandemic grew. Third, border closures and supply chain interruptions increased tensions between nations, especially between the United States and China, which was criticized for its suppression of information at the start of the pandemic. Beijing’s brazen imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong while the world was preoccupied by the pandemic further eroded its global standing, especially in Europe. Fourth, the economic collapse due to the pandemic response again focused attention on the need to create more domestic jobs, including those in the hard-hit industrial sector. Finally, all these developments led allies such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and the EU to advance new policies meant to bring production back to home territories. These trends support initiatives to increase the resiliency of domestic production, even beyond the parameters of defense and medical security.
  • Topic: Economics, Science and Technology, Manufacturing, Trade, COVID-19, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Bryan Clark, Seth Cropsey, Timothy A. Walton
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: Submarines have posed a challenge to naval forces for more than a century, enabling weaker maritime powers to launch surprise attacks ashore or cut an opponent off from the sea. But submarine threats, and the difficulty of countering them, increased substantially for the United States and its allies during the past decade. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is modernizing its fleet with conventional air-independent propulsion submarines (SSPs) that support its broader sensor and weapon networks. It is also fielding nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) capable of longer or more distant deployments. New generations of Russian Federation Navy (RFN) SSNs are difficult to track and could be employed for conventional or nuclear strikes during a conflict. Both countries are augmenting their submarine fleets with large autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) incorporating submarine like capabilities. Modern submarine technology has also proliferated, with the North Korean and Iranian navies using submarines and AUVs to level the playing field with their larger regional competitors and the United States. Unfortunately, the current US and allied approach to antisubmarine warfare (ASW) is unlikely to cope with the probable scale of undersea threats in a crisis or conflict. US Navy ASW concepts rely on fixed seabed sensors such as the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) or Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) ships to detect and initially track submarines. Multiple maritime patrol aircraft and guided missile destroyers (DDGs) then track each adversary submarine before potentially passing it to an SSN for longerterm surveillance. This approach works when opposing submarines deploy infrequently but is likely to break down during a large-scale submarine deployment or as submarines become quieter and harder to track. When manned platforms and expendables such as sonobuoys or torpedoes run out or are needed elsewhere, ASW operations will necessarily collapse to a defensive strategy protecting high-value targets, instead of suppressing enemy submarine operations closer to the adversary’s waters. This may result in unlocated adversary submarines operating in the open ocean, where they could threaten US and allied shipping and maritime operations.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Maritime, Automation, Submarines
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Bryan Clark, Dan Patt
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Hudson Institute
  • Abstract: US national security experts worry the United States is falling behind China in the competition for 5G mobile communication dominance. While US companies led establishment of today’s 4G networks, they are not the frontrunners in setting 5G standards, building 5G equipment, or deploying 5G infrastructure. The lead in 5G implementation belongs instead to China’s Huawei, which exploited a combination of regulatory protection, government subsidies, and capable technology to rapidly gain one-third of the global 5G market.
  • Topic: National Security, Science and Technology, Internet, 5G
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: T. X. Hammes
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: For the last two decades, China has studied the US military, identified its key weaknesses, and developed the tactics and forces best suited to exploit those vulnerabilities. These challenges are compounded by significant deficiencies in today’s US joint force across all domains of conflict—sea, air, land, space, electronic warfare, and cyber. Proposed budgets cannot overcome those deficiencies using legacy systems. Therefore, the current US military strategy for the defense of Asia—a conventional defense of the first island chain from Japan to the Philippines, built on current air and sea platforms supported by major air and sea bases—needs to be adapted. The United States and its allies have two major advantages they can exploit—geography and emerging technologies. In Forward Defense’s inaugural report, An Affordable Defense of Asia, T.X. Hammes crafts a strategy for leveraging these advantages. Hammes makes the case that by developing novel operational concepts that take advantage of emerging technologies, while integrating these concepts into a broader Offshore Control Strategy which seeks to hold geostrategic chokepoints, the United States can improve its warfighting posture and bolster conventional deterrence. This paper advances the following arguments and recommendations. 1. The geography of the Pacific provides significant strategic, operational, and tactical advantages to a defender. 2. New operational concepts that employ emerging, relatively inexpensive technologies—including multimodal missiles, long-range air drones, smart sea mines, and unmanned naval vessels—can support an affordable defense of Asia. 3. These new technologies can and should be manufactured and fielded by US allies in the region in order to strengthen alliance relationships and improve their ability to defend themselves. 4. Autonomous weapons will be essential to an affordable defense of Asia.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: China, East Asia, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tate Nurkin, Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Atlantic Council
  • Abstract: Geopolitical and security dynamics are shifting in the Indo-Pacific as states across the region adjust to China’s growing influence and the era of great-power competition between the United States and China. These geopolitical shifts are also intersecting with the accelerating rate of innovation in technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to reshape the future of military-technological competition and emerging military operations. This report, Emerging Technologies and the Future of US-Japan Defense Collaboration, by Tate Nurkin and Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi, explores the drivers, tensions, and constraints shaping US-Japan collaboration on emerging defense technologies while providing concrete recommendations for the US-Japan alliance to accelerate and intensify long-standing military and defense-focused coordination and collaboration.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, International Cooperation, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Japan, East Asia, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kara Frederick
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: Aglobal contest between democracies and autocracies is raging on the digital front. Technology stands to alter the balance between free, open societies and closed, repressive regimes. Nation states in direct competition with the United States seek to project global influence by shaping an existing digital order to their will. Impulses toward illiberal use of technology at home threaten to curtail individual liberties, constrict opportunity, and erode a truly open society. Democracies do not yet have a model for how to confront this. In the United States, a roadmap for a solution must start with the fundamental question: How should U.S. technology companies, with the help of the U.S. government, respond to the illiberal use of technology by authoritarian actors abroad? This report contends with this question by identifying concrete actions and threat-mitigating strategies that contain the input of government, the tech sector, civil society, and academia. It provides starting points to address the systemic risk inherent in dealing with authoritarian regimes and also examines cost imposition on those complicit in tech-enabled human rights abuses. Yet a strategy aimed only at staunching the illiberal use of technology will fail in the long term. Instead, the U.S. government and tech companies alike must recruit democratic allies to purvey an affirmative agenda that promotes digital freedom across the globe. This report proposes an agenda that stresses privacy leadership by the United States and its technology companies. It identifies areas of collaboration for U.S. allies and democratic partners, like digital trade, foreign law enforcement requests for data, and technical standards. This report’s affirmative agenda also contains an imperative for U.S. tech companies to build commercial norms toward digital freedom and incentivize transparency within their own ranks. For digital freedom to prevail over authoritarian uses of technology, democracies must present something better. Together, they must establish an alternative model for the use of technology globally. These recommendations build that democratic case, starting with the United States.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Jason Bartlett
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: North Korea conducts intricate and sweeping cyberattacks against the United States and its allies to acquire funds to support its illicit nuclear proliferation efforts. Unlike more economically advanced nuclear states possessing domestic research, development, and deployment capacities to establish weapon of mass destruction (WMD) programs, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) must seek financial resources, assistance, and institutional knowledge, at least initially, from overseas. It has developed its cyber capabilities in order to circumvent financial sanctions and global safeguards, conducting elaborate online bank heists and hacking attacks; stealing funds through fraudulent bank transfers, Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) transactions, and ATM cash-outs; launching ransomware attacks demanding payment in cryptocurrency; and hacking cryptocurrency exchanges. The scale and sophistication of these innovative sanctions evasion tactics create a challenge that calls for stronger measures to confront them. In addition to providing policy recommendations for U.S. leadership and financial institutions, this report will outline the ways North Korea supports, expands, and utilizes cyber operations to acquire funds for its nuclear weapons program.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Finance
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Paul Scharre, Ainikki Riikonen
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: The Department of Defense’s (DoD) ever-shifting technology priorities jeopardize its ability to win a long-term technology competition. The DoD needs a systematic approach—a technology strategy—for how to prioritize technology investments. The dominant global tech trend today is the information revolution, which is leading to exponential growth in digital capabilities. The top priority of the DoD’s technology strategy should be rapidly spinning in and militarizing digital technologies generated in the private sector. The DoD should invest in key military-specific technologies, such as hypersonics or directed energy weapons, when there is clear operational value but should expect advancements to be incremental.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Investment
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kara Frederick
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating global trends in digital surveillance. Public health imperatives, combined with opportunism by autocratic regimes and authoritarian-leaning leaders, are expanding personal data collection and surveillance. This tendency toward increased surveillance is taking shape differently in repressive regimes, open societies, and the nation-states in between. China, run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is leading the world in using technology to enforce social control, monitor populations, and influence behavior. Part of maximizing this control depends on data aggregation and a growing capacity to link the digital and physical world in real time, where online offenses result in brisk repercussions. Further, China is increasing investments in surveillance technology and attempting to influence the patterns of technology’s global use through the export of authoritarian norms, values, and governance practices. For example, China champions its own technology standards to the rest of the world, while simultaneously peddling legislative models abroad that facilitate access to personal data by the state. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic offers China and other authoritarian nations the opportunity to test and expand their existing surveillance powers internally, as well as make these more extensive measures permanent. Global swing states are already exhibiting troubling trends in their use of digital surveillance, including establishing centralized, government-held databases and trading surveillance practices with authoritarian regimes. Amid the pandemic, swing states like India seem to be taking cues from autocratic regimes by mandating the download of government-enabled contact-tracing applications. Yet, for now, these swing states appear responsive to their citizenry and sensitive to public agitation over privacy concerns. Open societies and democracies can demonstrate global surveillance trends similar to authoritarian regimes and swing states, including the expansion of digital surveillance in the name of public safety and growing private sector capabilities to collect and analyze data on individuals. Yet these trends toward greater surveillance still occur within the context of pluralistic, open societies that feature ongoing debates about the limits of surveillance. However, the pandemic stands to shift the debate in these countries from skepticism over personal data collection to wider acceptance. Thus far, the spectrum of responses to public surveillance reflects the diversity of democracies’ citizenry and processes.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Surveillance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Martijn Rasser, Ainikki Riikonen
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: Communication networks are the central nervous system of the 21st century economy. The fifth generation of wireless—5G—will be essential to and inseparable from all we do. In many ways, we are already there. What for most was an abstract concept became all too real during the COVID-19 crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the critical importance of communication networks: They are integral to our daily lives and our ability to function economically and as a society. Shutdowns of offices, schools, and stores have meant turning to apps to work, learn, and buy. Frontline medical workers and vaccine researchers have consulted colleagues via teleconference to get the latest insight and advice on combating the virus. Being connected means resilience, coping, surviving. Getting 5G right is all the more urgent. Next-generation 5G networks will enable telemedicine, self-driving cars, and a proliferation of Internet of Things devices to fuel the future digital economy. Secure, reliable 5G networks will be essential elements of national infrastructure. Policymakers in Australia, Japan, and Vietnam understood this early on and took decisive action to secure their 5G networks. U.S. officials, slower out of the gates, are now the loudest voice on the risks of having equipment from untrusted vendors in 5G networks. The spotlight is brightest on the risks that Huawei poses to national security, including the threat of espionage or disruption. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to exercise control over Huawei, there is justifiable concern over data integrity on networks that deploy Huawei equipment. More serious is the potential to use 5G equipment as a vector to cripple critical infrastructure. Such risk is not only about communications—5G will be the backbone of controls needed for power grids, water supplies, and transportation infrastructure. Despite this, the United States has had only limited success convincing its allies to join it in banning Huawei. The United States has the opportunity to regain momentum by taking a fresh approach to 5G in the aftermath of the pandemic. In addition to the broader appreciation for the criticality of reliable communication networks, Beijing’s coronavirus cover-up and clunky attempts at soft power have hardened public opinion toward China around the world. The economic fallout of the pandemic will likely slow 5G deployments globally, curtailing the urgency with which many operators approached the issue. At the same time, the first commercial projects centered on technological alternatives to the predominant 5G approach are being deployed. This confluence of events presents the United States and like-minded countries an opening to promote an alternative approach that could lead to a paradigm shift in the industry: wireless infrastructure built on a modular architecture with open interfaces. A modular architecture allows an operator to choose multiple vendors for a range of offerings, rather than being locked in with a single large integrated vendor. Open interfaces—the ability of equipment from any vendor to work with that of another—make that possible. Such a shift means upending the industry status quo that is dominated by four telecommunications equipment providers: China’s Huawei, Finland’s Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson, and South Korea’s Samsung. Whereas other proposed responses to the Huawei dilemma and the problematic current state of competition in the telecommunications industry fiddle at the margins, switching to an industry centered on open interfaces would change the game altogether. A restructured industry based on open interfaces would directly address the prevailing concerns over untrusted vendors such as Huawei and the broader inefficiencies of the industry. There are distinct advantages to be gained in security and interoperability, supply chain resiliency, probable cost savings, and the opportunity to stimulate much-needed competition in the sector. Taken together, these advantages do much to blunt Beijing’s industrial policies that have enabled Huawei’s predatory anti-competitive practices.
  • Topic: National Security, Science and Technology, Communications, COVID-19, 5G
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America