4 October 2023

Digital Technology Guru

Digital Technology Guru Reviews

New Threats to Democracy: Tech-Enhanced Authoritarianism Explored

2 min read
New Threats to Democracy: Tech-Enhanced Authoritarianism Explored

In the age of emerging technologies, the benefits and conveniences they offer are undeniable. However, these advancements also come with inherent risks, especially when exploited powerful dictatorships seeking to strengthen their authoritarianism. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a prime example of a regime leveraging technology to undermine democracies while expanding its own influence.

The PRC’s use of “sharp power” enables it to control information access, distort political environments, and engage in censorship and surveillance. This concept of “state security” drives the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to shape and manage the international environment in a way that aligns with its own interests. The CCP’s tech-enhanced authoritarianism involves the utilization of technology to augment its existing methods of dominance and control over populations.

China’s export of “smart cities” technology is an example of how the PRC leverages technology to monitor and control society. The CCP blurs the lines between essential public goods and authoritarian suppression, prioritizing regime security over individual rights. Many governments worldwide are eager to adopt these surveillance systems, posing serious implications for democratic integrity.

Beijing also actively participates in international standards-setting for emerging technologies, allowing it to exploit these advancements to enhance its sharp power capabilities. If PRC-originated technical standards gain international acceptance, it will grant PRC-made systems greater interoperability and market access globally, further impacting democratic integrity.

To effectively address the challenges posed tech-enhanced authoritarianism, policymakers, researchers, and civil society must understand how state actors, such as the CCP, project sharp power using these new technologies. One-size-fits-all policy approaches can obscure the diverse impacts and intentions of authoritarian actors. It is crucial for liberal democracies to educate their citizens about the direct threats posed China’s tech-enhanced authoritarianism and to emphasize the importance of liberal-democratic values.

In summary, the rise of tech-enhanced authoritarianism poses significant risks to liberal democracies worldwide. China’s use of emerging technologies to reinforce its authoritarian rule has far-reaching consequences that are often underestimated. As democracies navigate these challenges, it is essential to develop country-specific understandings and promote liberal-democratic values to protect individual autonomy and freedom of expression.

– Dr. Samantha Hoffman, Senior Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute
– “Defending Democracy in an Age of Sharp Power” (book mention)
– “Proposed UN Cybercrime Treaty Threatens to be an Expansive Global Surveillance Pact” (EFF)
– “The AI Revolution is Coming for Latin America. Is It Ready?” (Americas Quarterly)
– “Assessing India‚Äôs Digital Personal Data Protection Bill” (Tech Policy Press)
– “Chinese Discourse Power: Capabilities and Impact” (Digital Forensics Research Lab)
– “Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency, and its information strategy to win bids in Latin America” (CLIP)