The rise of the new Chinese state under the leadership of President Xi Jinping has been a predominant force in the conversation surrounding technological innovation, economic development, and basic human freedoms. As China has sought to emerge as the leading tech superpower alongside the U.S., it has often done so at the expense of basic human rights such as freedom of religion and speech. As we have seen in recent pro-democracy protests, the Chinese people do not enjoy most of the basic freedoms we cherish in the West.
The Chinese state has sought to implement various technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition, and internet censorship to strengthen the Communist party’s hold on the lives of its people. To read more about how China uses technology to bolster the power of the state, read my article at Christianity Today here.
To truly understand the impact of technology on our culture and daily lives, we must understand how the Chinese government operates and how it abuses technology for its own power and status. This is why I was excited to read Elizabeth C. Economy’s new book, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. I benefited immensely from her in-depth research and insight into the formation of the new Chinese state under President Xi Jinping.
Chapter three, titled Chinanet, focuses on technology and the power of the internet in China. Economy focuses on how Xi Jinping’s Chinese state has sought to embrace certain aspects of technology to strengthen the power and influence of the state, while at the same time limit the freedom and democratization of information for its people. Under Xi Jinping, the state wants to embrace the global political influence through China’s innovation hubs, social media outlets, and the growing economic output through manufacturing, but also rejects the fundamental democratizing aspects that come with the free flow of information in the public square.
From the “Great Fire Wall,” which filters internet access by only allowing “acceptable” content, to the use of facial recognition software powered by AI to track and detain government dissidents, China’s heavy handed approach has allowed it to emerge as a global superpower on the world stage, but ultimately will hamper its ability to project global leadership on major issues. The lack of basic human rights should alarm any nation seeking to do business with the country and should be a major part of any negotiations with the Chinese leadership over trade and economic matters.
The Chinese experiment of balancing freedom and control is playing out right before our eyes and will hopefully illuminate a better and more free path forward for the rest of the world as we embrace the benefits of technological innovation and lift high the concept of human dignity for all people.
I highly recommend Economy’s work and recommend you check it out if you are interested in the history of the Chinese state and the influence it exerts on the global stage.