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Opening Panel: China and the Digital World Order - 17 October 2022

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In the past few years, the pace of acceleration in technology innovation, coupled with its widespread adaptation, has provided central challenges to policymakers in attempting to establish a level of governance or normative behaviour in an infinite, unwieldy and changeable arena.

These challenges are amplified ten-fold when expounded across international boundaries, with conflicting political, cultural, economic and social infrastructure all interacting and enmeshing within these digital global commons.

This is no better illustrated than in the heightened geopolitical tension between the US and China. Digital technology has become central to the ongoing economic competition and geostrategic rivalry between the world’s two largest economies.

In 2021 President Xi Jinping observed, “Technological innovation has become the main battleground of the global playing field, and competition for tech dominance will grow unprecedentedly fierce”.

China’s rapid expansion of digital technology has intensified existing anxiety among democratic countries that its capabilities will be used to upset the international liberal order. On one hand, the Chinese Government peddles the importance of cyber sovereignty; on the other, Western leaders focus on free and open internet.

In this session, our panel of experts will unpack the implications of China’s technology advancements on the world order, including:

  • Technology and the three C’s: competition, cooperation, and potential conflict between China, the US, the UK and likeminded countries
  • How the UK, EU and US can or should respond to China’s growing tech capabilities
  • The prospects for global governance given the fractured nature of the internet
  • Whether China is shaping or recreating international norms for digital governance
  • Digital statecraft and national security narratives within China and the West

About the speakers

Julia Voo, Cyber Fellow, Harvard Belfer Center

Julia Voo is a Harvard Cyber Fellow and leads the team behind Harvard Belfer's National Cyber Power Index. She was formerly the Research Director for the China Cyber Policy Initiative at Harvard.

Her areas of research concern geotech strategy including technical standards and the Digital Silk Road. Voo is also a Visiting Fellow at the Hague Program on International Cyber Security and she was formerly a Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford); China Africa Research Initiative (Johns Hopkins); and Future of US-China Relations (UPenn).

A 2019 graduate of Harvard Kennedy School's Master in Public Administration program, Julia served earlier at the British Embassy in Beijing where she covered China's cyber and artificial intelligence policy from a commercial perspective, technical standards, and other trade policy issues. She lived in Beijing for seven years with stints at the EU Delegation to China, Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, and she has spent time at the UK's Cabinet Office. Julia's research, writings and commentary have featured in several media outlets including the Financial Times, the Economist, BBC World News, Wired, and Cyberscoop. She is also the Global Cybersecurity and Tech Policy lead at HP Inc.

John Lee, Director, East West Futures Consulting

John brings a range of government and research sector experience to the work of East West Futures. Based in Europe and having previously worked for the Australian government, John’s analysis is informed by a sophisticated understanding of the political, business and security environments in the EU, Australia and East-Southeast Asia. He brings an interdisciplinary perspective and professional Chinese language skills to complex and fast-changing questions about China’s impacts on a world increasingly linked through digital technologies.

His commentaries and analysis have been published in The National Interest, the Australian Financial Review, Le Monde Diplomatique, Limes Review of Geopolitics, Asian Politics & Policy, The Diplomat, the Lowy Interpreter, East Asia Forum, ChinaFile, SupChina and other outlets.

John holds Masters degrees from the Australian National University and King’s College London. He is an admitted Australian legal practitioner.

Nigel Cory, Associate Director, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Nigel Cory is an Associate Director at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, where he focuses on cross-border data flows, data governance, intellectual property, and how they each relate to digital trade and the broader digital economy.

He has provided in-person testimony and written submissions and has published reports and op-eds relating to these issues in the United States, the European Union, Australia, China, India, and New Zealand, among other countries and regions, and has completed research projects for international bodies such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and the World Trade Organization. He previously worked for eight years in Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Helen Zhang, Co-founder, Intrigue Media

Helen Zhang is Googler, former-Australian diplomat, and co-founder of geopolitics media-tech start-up, Intrigue Media and a Millennium Fellow at the Atlantic Council . At Google, Zhang works on technology policy to address emerging trends and risks, including how governments regulate online content and the technology industry.

As a diplomat, Zhang served in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Hong Kong where she covered political and economic issues, such as counterterrorism, information operations, and free trade. She also worked in public diplomacy, as a trade negotiator, consular officer, and Mandarin interpreter for the Australian government.

Her mission is to educate next-generation leaders on the complexities of navigating geopolitics in the digital age and responding to the challenges of regulating the internet. Zhang graduated in 2020 with a master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as a Fulbright Scholar, and has undergraduate degrees from the Australian National University in laws and Asian studies.

Moderator: Elisa Oreglia, Senior Lecturer, Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London

Elisa Oreglia researches the adoption, adaptation and use of digital technologies among different communities in Asia and in the Global South in general. She is interested in the localized socio-technical practices that emerge from technology users who are far from urban centres and advanced economies, as well as the political economy that surrounds technology development and circulation.

She joined the Department of Digital Humanities in January 2018 and is also an Affiliate of the Lau China Institute at KCL. Elisa holds a PhD in Information Management & Systems from UC Berkeley’s School of Information, and has previously taught at SOAS University of London.

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Elisa Oreglia

Senior Lecturer in Global Digital Cultures


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