Home Middle East How China Is Exporting ‘High-Tech Authoritarianism’ to the Middle East

How China Is Exporting ‘High-Tech Authoritarianism’ to the Middle East

by THE GULF TALK

“China increasingly and openly wants to reshape the world in its image,” Joshua Kurlantzick writes in his new book, Beijing’s Global Media Offensive: China’s Uneven Campaign to Influence Asia and the World. Whether through state media, outright propaganda or other influence campaigns to spin news coverage and media narratives in China’s favor, Beijing is trying to promote what he calls its “brand of technology-enabled authoritarianism.”

A senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Kurlantzick has written widely on China’s soft and hard power. He is also the author of three other books—A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIAState Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World; and Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline in Representative Government. Kurlantzick’s latest book details Beijing’s efforts over the past decade to build up Chinese state media and export it around the world—”to build a global media and information and disinformation superpower,” as he puts it. While China has invested most of this influence campaign in its immediate region of the Asia-Pacific, and especially Southeast Asia, it has recently expanded its soft power into the Middle East and North Africa, where it also has other aims—namely, exporting a Chinese model of internet control to regimes in the Arab world eager to follow “Beijing’s blueprint for high-tech authoritarianism.”

In an interview, Kurlantzick discussed how countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, along with many states in Africa, are at the forefront of this campaign by China, which he considers “the biggest advocate for closed domestic internets in the world.” These regimes are essentially seeking to copy China’s model of the internet and impose it on their own societies. “Beijing has built this influence apparatus, often centered on media and information efforts, in an era when Xi [Jinping] is gaining far more control of China’s politics at home,” he writes. “It also has built this apparatus at a time when the United States and other leading democracies, focused on their own internal dysfunction and on Russia, the more flamboyant and chaotic authoritarian power, initially paid little attention to China’s actions within other countries.”

The following transcript has been edited lightly for clarity and length.

“China wants to extend the reach of its model of a closed and controlled domestic internet and promote aspects of its technology-enabled authoritarian capitalism. It has some willing and eager customers in the Middle East.”

– JOSHUA KURLANTZICK

News source : Democracy for the Arab world now

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