This Capstone aimed to understand how China’s public security system responds to technological change and to explore implications of this on U.S. national interests. The Chinese Public Security System’s (PSS) adaptation of technology reflects a new form of governance: IT-backed Authoritarianism.[1] The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) currently exercises its authority through punitive and persuasive measures, enabled by the mass collection and analysis of personal data by China’s public security apparatus and private sector.

As technology provides citizens with new services, the team predicted that the government will continue to gain new social control mechanisms and will exert control over the Chinese population without necessarily reverting to overt coercion. As IT-backed authoritarianism is successfully implemented in China, its normative and technical aspects may become attractive to other governments around the globe. After conducting an extensive literature review and interviewing key stakeholders—including academics, activists, technical specialists, business leaders, and policymakers from the U.S. and China-- the team prepared recommendations and identified areas for further research. The main points addressed in their final report were:

1) China’s normalization of its oppressive surveillance methods,

2) the spread of surveillance technologies to regimes sympathetic to the CCP’s authoritarian model, and

3) the ability of the US Congress to set aside funds for technological aid to developing countries, preventing a dependence on Chinese investment. 

 


[1] Mirjam Meissner and Jost Wübbeke, “IT-backed authoritarianism: Information Technology enhances central authority and control capacity under Xi Jinping,” China’s Core Executive: Leadership Styles, Structures and Processes under Xi Jinping, Merics, June 2016