At the outset of the digital age, democracies seemed ascendant. The United States and like-minded countries were at the cutting edge of technological development. Policymakers were pointing to the inherently liberalizing effect of the Internet, which seemed a threat to dictators everywhere. The United States’ technological advantage made its military more potent, its economy more prosperous, and its democracy, at least in theory, more vibrant.
The world’s advanced democracies have something the autocracies don’t: a long history of multilateral cooperation for the benefit of all.
Since then, autocratic states have caught up. China is at the forefront, no longer a mere rising power in technology and now an American peer. In multiple areas—including facial and voice recognition, 5G technology, digital payments, quantum communications, and the commercial drone market—it has surpassed the United States. Leaders in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and elsewhere are increasingly using technology for illiberal ends, following China’s example. And despite the United States’ remaining advantage in some technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductor production, it has fallen behind China in formulating an overall strategy for their use.
Read the full article in Foreign Affairs.
More from CNAS
CommentaryIt’s Still Hard to Be America’s Ally
The drive to enshrine a U.S. foreign policy for the American middle class may, in particular, pose new dilemmas for long-term allies....
By Richard Fontaine
ReportsPositive Visions, Powerful Partnerships
Restoring U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific is critical to competing effectively against China....
By Stephen Tankel, Lisa Curtis, Joshua Fitt & Coby Goldberg
PodcastTo The Quad! The Origins of "Indo-Pacific"
Megan Lamberth cohosts this episode of ChinaTalk. Also discussed is Martijn Rasser's report on Tech, Australia and the Quad. Listen to the full episode from ChinaTalk....
By Megan Lamberth & Jordan Schneider
CommentarySharper: Financial Technology
CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation about the economic and national security implications of new innovations in financial technology....
By Emily Jin & Chris Estep