U.S. Senate Warns Authoritarian China Could Soon Control the Internet

A new report by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is issuing a stark warning. The report, commissioned by Sen. Robert Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Committee, warns that the “United States is now on the precipice of losing the future of the cyber domain to China.”

Imagine China’s digital repression extended to the global internet. The idea should send chills down everyone’s spines.

According to the Washington Post, the report describes how China has invested in technology that aids authoritarianism, such as facial recognition software and other surveillance technology.

I have written about this previously, calling the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) a “High-Tech Surveillance State.” Using language surprisingly similar to that from my in-depth 2019 report in Bitter WinterChina’s High-Tech Surveillance State: A “Digital Despotism,” The Post notes how the Senate report describes the CCP’s expanding and draconian digital surveillance.

The Chinese regime is expanding its surveillance “to include the collection of DNA samples, fingerprints, voice samples and blood types in particular from those in the western Xinjiang region…”

In my report, I quoted James Andrew Lewis, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) saying, “[China has] adopted the most pervasive surveillance system in the world…It’s the combination of big data, facial recognition, and pervasive surveillance that’s made it the most intrusive thing that anyone has ever seen.”

However, the current fear is how China is exporting its repressive technology and authoritarian model worldwide.

Specifically, the Senate reports states, according to The Post, “If China continues to perfect the tools of digital authoritarianism and is able to effectively implement them both domestically and abroad, then China, not the United States and its allies, will shape the digital environment.”

Most recently, the Post adds, “Beijing passed new national security laws in Hong Kong, which could potentially see the extension of the Chinese surveillance state into one of the freest Internet landscapes in the world.” This has shaken even some of the West’s tech giants, such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook, who critics claim have been far too cozy with the CCP.

What should be done?

Among the recommendations made by the Senate report, according to The Post, is that the U.S. “should aggressively develop alternatives to Chinese 5G technology along with its allies…and create an industry consortium on 5G.” The United States should also actively support NGOs and think tanks worldwide that are fighting to counter-surveillance regimes, says the report.

It is great to see the U.S. Senate highlighting this serious global concern, and as Senator Menendez notes, “There has been a sharp increase in bipartisan interest for Congress to recalibrate our nation’s entire China policy.”

The U.S. should use this new evolving bi-partisan consensus to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy to counter China’s growing threat to the U.S. and to global freedom.

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Paul Crespo

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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