AI Governance Panel: Digital Authoritarians and Cyber Policy

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China’s increased technological capacity and advocacy raise concerns about the rise of “digital authoritarians,” revealing the lack of globally-recognized cyber policy.

“A new race for global dominance has started, and, this time, it is in technology.” Recent revelations of Chinese firms’ IP thefts and the Chinese states’ zealous drive for R&D in fields like AI have sparked debates on technology’s impact in governance. Underlying these discussions are fundamental questions of access, usage and regulation that already impact businesses, policymakers, and citizens worldwide. How is the Chinese state leveraging technology to govern its people? What are the international rules governing cyber behavior? To unpack these themes, FACES in February hosted a panel with cyber policy expert Christopher Painter and UC Berkeley research scientist XIAO Qiang. The panel welcomed 50 attendees from the Stanford student community. Following are the key takeaways from the panel:

Beijing has increased efforts to consolidate its vision of cyber governance at home—and to promote that vision abroad. Domestically, next-generation IT such as AI and smart cities have increased the state capabilities in surveillance and crime punishment, allowing “a small number of people [to control] a larger population.” Through the Belt and Road Initiative, he asserts technologies once deemed “liberating” have given rise to a wave of “digital authoritarian states.” With respect to the Internet, China is also becoming more proactive in the international policy realm. China is engaging in cyber dialogues and capacity building for Internet control with developing countries. the drive to tighten cyberspace reflects goals of economic growth and social stability. It also reflects heightened concerns for legitimacy among Chinese policymakers since Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election. 

One must view cyber governance within the international order.  “Cyber policy” concerns not only international security, but also international norms. Former US president Obama made multiple efforts to emphasize the need for a shared cyber policy framework with president Xi. At stake are rules of conflict—not attacking non-combatants, but also rights—the freedom of the Internet. In this vein, he argues that China’s export controls threaten the open values and multilateral stakeholder nature of the Internet. 

Discussions surrounding cyber governance are constantly evolving with differences in each side’s understanding. In the US-China context, the same rhetoric may have different meanings. For example, Chinese policymakers emphasize information control when discussing cybersecurity. In addition, there are divisions between key Chinese agencies in charge of cyber policymaking—the People’s Liberation Army, Ministry of Science and Technology and the Cyberspace Administration of China. Regardless, one should expect more coordination in the future. The 2015 Cyber Agreement presents promising steps for a high-level joint dialogue mechanism between the United States and China on fighting cybercrime, economic IP theft and related issues. Yet, discussions have halted, reflecting how international frameworks are also subject to the changing climates of state-to-state relations. 

The audience Q & A provided a chance for further reflection and exploration. Attendees expressed concerns of how technology can jeopardize civil liberties even in democratic contexts. While fundamental differences might justify numerous cyber practices, both panelists underscored the need to proceed from an understanding of facts as a way forward. Regarding US-China technological tensions, Painter attributes the cause not to the US government, but increased public concerns, a reminder of the importance of separating issues into time periods. As Beijing realizes the vulnerability that comes with more technological capacity, however, China may become more a responsible stakeholder in international cyber governance.

Author: Catherine Baron ‘21, FACES President (catherinebaron@stanford.edu)

 

FACES 2019 Telesummit Report: Pressing Trade Tensions, A Joint US-China Dialogue

Even before his presidential election in 2016, President Trump has criticized China for its unfair trade practices. His calls for protective measures against Chinese imports were finally put into action in July 2018 in the form of tariffs, kicking off the current US-China trade war as we know it, with the Chinese government responding in turn with tariffs on US products.

In light of trade tensions between the US and China, the 2019 FACES Stanford-Peking University Telesummit was organized with the aim of exploring the far-reaching political and economic consequences of the escalating trade war between the United States and China. Through the use of video conference technology, we connected professors and students from Stanford and Peking University to spark meaningful dialogue between stakeholders on both sides of the table.

We wondered: What is the long-term economic impact of the trade war on China, the United States, and other countries? Do mutually beneficial solutions to resolve trade tensions exist? If the U.S.-China trade war persists, who will ultimately prevail and who will surrender? In this trade war, is there even a clear winner to begin with; that is, will both countries inevitably “lose” in certain ways? How will the trade war affect the future of U.S.-China relations?

On the Stanford side, we were joined by Nicholas Hope from the Stanford Center for International Development and Thomas Fingar from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, who provided a brief timeline on the economic reasons for the trade war, citing promise fatigue and the trade imbalance. While they conceded both countries would suffer from the trade war, with lower and middle classes impacted the most, they argued that businesses internationally had long been negatively impacted by lack of regulation when trading with China, and that the trade war was inevitable.

Meanwhile, on the Peking University side, we were joined by professors Wang Yong and Wang Dong, both professors in the school of international studies who believed the trade war took on a much more political nature for China. They cited news in anti-China rhetoric that have been gaining traction, such as when President Trump’s top trade advisor Peter Navarro stated that trade with China was a “zero-sum game” with only one winner. They argued that the prevalence of such rhetoric mobilized support for a trade war, spurring Trump to make the decision to tariff; and, that by making plans to compromise later in trade meetings, President Trump would put himself in a better light for re-election in 2020.

After the professors provided a knowledge base, the floor opened up so that students and faculty could ask each other questions. Students at Stanford were curious about how the trade war impacted the day-to-day life of Chinese citizens and students, learning that the trade war may have an impact on access to US websites and media in China. Meanwhile, Chinese students were concerned about the consequences for student and work visas when applying to universities in the United States.

It was clear from the discussion that the trade war was a far more complicated topic than could be addressed within two hours. However, the telesummit provided a starting point to draw new connections and spark further discussion. From a distance of over 5,000 miles, students and faculty were able to discuss the ramifications of the trade war with each other. Participants came to the conclusion that businesses in the US and China would both benefit most from a stable relationship between the US and China, and thus the trade war would likely be short-lived. Generally, we left optimistic that a solution would be reached.

As a freshman student in the audience of my first-ever telesummit, it was eye-opening to see how technology could be used to connect perspectives from over 5,000 miles away. I left with a deeper understanding of how complicated trade relations could be, as well as an eagerness to participate in more discussions. As an organizer of the event, I learned a lot about communicating with professors, developing a topic of discussion, and other behind-the-scenes efforts. Many thanks to fellow 2019 FACES telesummit team members for all their work to put together such a valuable event: Yanqiu Wang, James Noh, and VP of telesummit Cami Katz.

If you’re interested in more opportunities for cross-cultural communication and learning, look out for the next Telesummit and more FACES events in the spring! We’ll explore additional topics in US-China relations, including law cases, technology, and censorship.

Author: Vivian Auduong ‘22, Operations Team (auduong@stanford.edu)

Introducing the 2019-20 Stanford FACES Executive Team

Members of the FACES team pose for a collegial photo at the FACES Annual Team Retreat. Pictured from left to right, front row: Stone Yang, Alice Yanqiu Wang, James Noh, Jiayi Li, Helynna Lin. Back row: Cathy Baron, Charlie Hoffs, Celia Xinuo Chen, Nick Shankar, Frédéric Urech, Troy Shen. Photographer: Eric Kuang.

Members of the FACES team pose for a collegial photo at the FACES Annual Team Retreat. Pictured from left to right, front row: Stone Yang, Alice Yanqiu Wang, James Noh, Jiayi Li, Helynna Lin. Back row: Cathy Baron, Charlie Hoffs, Celia Xinuo Chen, Nick Shankar, Frédéric Urech, Troy Shen. Photographer: Eric Kuang.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA: The Forum for American/Exchange at Stanford University (FACES) recently unveiled its new leadership team for the 2019-20 calendar year, as the organization prepares to organize its flagship Annual Summit at Stanford this fall.

Outgoing co-presidents Celia Xinuo Chen '20 and Nikhil Shankar '20 appointed Vice President of Finance Catherine Baron '21 and Vice President of On-Campus Programming Zhenqi Hu '21 as the new co-presidents for the 2019-20 calendar year. Celia and Nikhil will stay on as mentors working on Alumni Relations and Communications in the upcoming year.

“As China grows increasingly important on the global stage, facilitating good-faith dialogue and exchange between young leaders on both sides of the Pacific is more critical than ever,” Nikhil stated. “Celia and I have been honored to work with and learn from amazing delegates and students over the past year, and we are confident Catherine and Zhenqi will be extraordinary leaders.”

On-Campus Programming executive member Stone Yang '22 was chosen as the new Vice President of On-Campus Programming, replacing Zhenqi. Replacing Catherine as Vice President of Finance will be Finance executive member Eric Kuang ‘22. On-Campus Programming executive member Jiayi Li ‘22 was chosen as Vice President of Operations, and Communications executive member Cathy Wang ‘21 will serve as Vice President of Communications. Alumni Relations executive member Emma Bowers ‘22 was chosen as Vice President of Alumni Relations for 2019-20, replacing Caroline Zhang ‘21, who will take on a new position as Director of Institutional Partnerships. Zecheng Wang ‘21 will remain as Director of Chapter Relations, while Finance executive member Dongming Zhang ‘22 will serve as the new Director of Recruitment. James Noh ‘22 was selected as Director of FACES’s innovative Telesummit Programming division, replacing Cami Katz ‘21, who will serve as Director of Development. Serving as Financial Officer for 2019-20 will be Frédéric Urech ‘22, who brings a wide range of experience from three continents.

Additionally, leading FACES’s new publication division will be Jiyoung Jeong ‘21 and Clara Spars ‘21, who co-founded the FACES Magazine last year. Serving as Creative Director of the FACES Magazine will be Charlie Hoffs ‘22, a current editor of the magazine.

“The relationship between the United States and China rests on the exchange between their people, and Zhenqi and I are excited to work with our team in the upcoming year to connect young leaders across the world to engage with the most critical issues of our time,” Catherine stated. “Our community of change-makers is international, reflecting the far-reaching impact of this bilateral relationship.”

The FACES executive team is diverse, experienced, and committed. Hailing from Seattle to Shanghai, and with interests ranging from Political Science to Philosophy, executive members bring a wealth of perspectives to their work. Executive members will collaborate with FACES's 405 Stanford student affiliates, faculty advisors, current Summit delegates, and over 875 alumni to further the organization's mission of strengthening U.S.-China relations through vibrant intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange.

FACES is always looking for committed, motivated Stanford undergraduates and graduates to join our executive team of students and sponsors working to facilitate intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange across the Pacific. You can apply to join FACES's executive team by completing the form at this link, or by emailing our organization at recruitment.faces@stanford.edu.

“Chatting About China” —Harvard Professor Discusses Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign at FACES

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STANFORD, CALIFORNIA: The Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES) and the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia–Pacific Research Center at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI APARC) co-hosted a “Chatting About China” event with Yuhua Wang, Assistant Professor of Government at Harvard University. Held at Stanford’s historic Encina Hall, the event provided an intimate and relaxed environment for students to ask Professor Wang about his work and a variety of issues in China.

Wang’s research focuses on the emergence of state institutions, with a regional focus on China. He is the author of Tying the Autocrat’s Hands: The Rise of the Rule of Law in China, and he is currently working on a book-length project examining long-term state development in China.

President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign began in 2012 and is the largest campaign of its kind since the 1949 founding of the People’s Republic of China. Much debate surrounds the motivation behind the campaign, with some arguing that it is meant to further Xi’s political interests while others contend that it is a sincere effort to reduce corruption.

Wang stated that the empirical question regarding the campaign’s effectiveness is whether it can reduce not just corruption within the current system, but also corruption in the future. He identifies this as the fundamental problem of any campaign: it can be effective in the short-term, but have unclear long-term effects.

Students from across campus asked a variety of questions about the campaign’s current and future state, broader issues in China, and Wang’s research. Three key areas of concerns emerge regarding anti-corruption campaigns: the motives behind the campaign, the role of rule of law and the media, and public opinions of the government due to such campaigns.

Motives Behind Xi’s Campaign

On the motives behind the campaign, Wang said that Xi’s campaign is about succession. According to Wang, anti-corruption campaigns are a very common political strategy for attacking the enemy and consolidating power and has been used historically in China by new leaders. By abolishing term limits and not naming a successor, Xi was able to consolidate his power and use his anti-corruption campaign as leverage to maintain support.

“My working hypothesis is that the anti-corruption campaign is actually a collective and also intentional attempt by the 'royal' families to take over,” said Wang. “They want to take the power back from the meritocratically promoted leaders within the party.”

The Roles of the Courts and Media

Professor Yuhua Wang speaks on Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign with FACES at Stanford’s Encina Hall.

Professor Yuhua Wang speaks on Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign with FACES at Stanford’s Encina Hall.

Several students asked about the role of the media and the courts in the campaign. Wang said that investigations begin with the party, are then publicized in the media, and finally are selectively handed to court, though this does not happen with most cases as the party often wants to protect its members. As a result, the courts are largely irrelevant, but the media plays a big role, according to Wang. He talked about how the level of detail in coverage of the corruption investigations is unprecedented with certain high-level party officials such as Bo Xilai, the former Minister of Commerce of the PRC and governor of Chongqing.

“[Because of this, the campaign] kind of backfires, because people realize that the party officials are more corrupt than they thought,” said Wang. “When people are exposed to the news on the media, they will actually decrease their support for the party because they are shocked by the amount of corruption in the government particularly on the higher level.”

Criticism of the Government Might Be Exaggerated

Regarding his research on politically sensitive topics, Wang talked about the obstacles he has faced, such as being unable to ask certain questions or know whether respondents are truthful. He also pointed out some interesting findings of false reporting of opinions, particularly among Chinese university students.

“The idea is that they might lie to you, they might overreport support of regime because they have a fear of [being watched by the party],” said Wang. “Recent study shows that it’s actually the opposite—that is when you do surveys with college students, they will over-report criticism [of the party] because they want to appear cool. For college students it’s cool to be critical, rather than nationalistic, because being critical shows that you are a real intellectual.”

After speaking with FACES in the morning, Wang delivered a lecture in the afternoon titled Why Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Has Undermined Chinese Citizens’ Regime Support? about his research on China’s public reaction to the campaign. He presented his hypothesis that the anti-corruption campaign, usually a method of gaining public support, has in fact reduced support for the Communist Party and government by revealing the extent of corruption, although it may have increased support for Xi himself. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session with the audience.


Author: Emily Wan ‘22, FACES Department of Communications

Seven Faces of FACES: Summit 2018

FACES delegates from around the globe pose for a candid photo at the Golden Gate Bridge after an Summit filled with intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange.

FACES delegates from around the globe pose for a candid photo at the Golden Gate Bridge after an Summit filled with intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange.

STANFORD, CALIFORNIA: Forty extraordinary young leaders arrived from all corners of the globe on the Stanford University campus in early October for the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford’s Annual Summit on U.S.-China Relations.

Founded in 2001, FACES is a student-led, international organization based at Stanford University, dedicated to strengthening the U.S.-China relationship through fostering intellectual, academic, and interpersonal exchange between young professionals and students on both sides of the Pacific.

As Chinese-American relations falter worldwide, FACES’s pioneering model of Track 3 diplomacy — providing a common ground where leaders from both nations can meet as people, and leave as friends — remains as important as ever. Gain a window into the diverse range of insights, experiences, and perspectives delegates bring to the FACES Summit by learning about some of this year’s delegates: representing four continents and a wide range of disciplines, dreams, and ambitions.

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FACE I: Austin Price

With U.S.-China relations deteriorating in fields ranging from trade to geopolitical cooperation, Austin Price arrived to the FACES Annual Summit a tad discouraged. Having dedicated his rising career to informing U.S. policymakers on defense and security issues in Northeast Asia, watching mistrust and misunderstanding crest due to recent events was cause for consternation. Connecting with his diverse range of peers at FACES, however, led optimism to win the day.

“Engaging with delegates here at the Summit made me feel better despite the current pessimistic environment,” Price said.

As a Company Executive Officer in the United States Army currently stationed in Korea, Price has a front-row seat on the complex and changing nature of the current U.S.-China relationship. Knowing that understanding perspectives from all sides today is critical to make the right defense and security decisions tomorrow, Price feels that the experience of the FACES Summit, in particular learning from his Chinese peers, has proved transformative.

“The FACES Summit, honestly, was my first opportunity to interact with Chinese exchange students at an Ivy League university,” Price revealed. “I believe [the Summit] opened up doors to a lot of social circles I’ve never had access to before in my life.”

Price also had positive remarks for the Summit’s smooth and professional organization.

“I do a lot of event organizing in my current work, and the conference is definitely very well planned out,” Price affirmed.

FACE II: Aaditee Kudrimoti

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Having grown up in suburban Tucson, Arizona in a close-knit Indian-American family, Aaditee Kudrimoti at first glance may appear a world apart from the arena of U.S.-China relations.

Such an impression would be misleading — not only because Aaditee attends the nearby University of California at Berkeley, but also due to her unbridled passion for kindling collaboration between the United States and China on issues of environmental protection and energy. Meeting delegates from across the world and from every discipline, Aaditee was floored by the intellectual vitality and energy of her peers.

“I’ve met all these amazing people here, and they’ve all done such astounding things,” Aaditee remarked. “They are my role models.”

Seeing the FACES Summit as a rare opportunity to comprehend differing views and beliefs from around the globe, Aaditee in particular sought to engage with perspectives that, in other contexts, would be hard to encounter.

“A lot of my experience on U.S.-China relations has been with Chinese Americans,” she said. “Getting input from Chinese nationals has been invaluable.”

A third-year undergraduate with a wide range of interests, Aaditee came to the Summit eager to learn more about the different fields of Sino-American relations her diverse delegate cohort brought to the table. At the same time, as an aspiring academic with a passion for the political economy of renewable resources, she was determined to share her own expertise on a topic with great bilateral and international importance.

“Here at the Summit, I’ve been finding so many people who were initially not interested in the niche part of U.S.-China relations I’m interested in,” Aaditee laughed. “And then I’ve been talking with them about it.”

FACE III: Qingjie (Bob) Zeng

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Qingjie Zeng occupies a unique cross-cultural place in the complex U.S.-China relationship.

“I consider myself a 1.5 generation immigrant who was born and raised in China, but has spent considerable time of his formative stage in the United States,” he states.

Qingjie, who also goes by Bob, grew up in Foshan, a “mid-sized” Chinese city of ten million. Traveling across the Pacific for his secondary and tertiary education, he found himself at Southern California’s Pomona College, a close-knit, renowned liberal arts institution with a class size of 400 annually. Realizing the value of intimate person-to-person dialogue through his four years at Pomona, Bob arrived at the FACES Summit with high standards. He, however, was far from disappointed.

“My favorite part of the Summit so far has definitely been the moments I get to spend with fellow delegates one-on-one, and talk about very personal and deep topics,” Bob said. “I’ve been surprised by how open people are despite the fact that we just met.”

Having completed an interdisciplinary major as an undergraduate, Bob was pleased by the diversity of the speakers and delegates at the Summit.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the chance here to talk to people from such a diverse background,” Bob remarked. “I love the diversity of the crowd, be it academic interests or cultural background. I think that’s really valuable.”

Given his unique perspective, Bob hopes to serve as a bridge between the United States and China in his career, fostering the type of personal and cultural understanding the FACES Summit has worked towards for nearly two decades. Bob flew in from Washington, D.C., where he has started work at the U.S.-China Strong Foundation and has had a front-row seat on the increasingly tense state of Chinese-American relations. His experience at FACES, however, has brought him hope.

“The atmosphere in D.C. has been really pessimistic,” Bob reflected. “Seeing FACES and young people like us talking about the issues and taking the time to hear each other has been refreshing, and tells me that there is room to be optimistic.”

Face IV: Emily Weinstein

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Emily Weinstein has been a student of the U.S.-China relationship for quite a while. By her own admission, she made up her mind at the age of fourteen to pursue a career studying China. Despite her long-standing passion for understanding perspectives on both side of the Pacific, however, Emily found the FACES Summit transformative.

“I’ve been surprised by the assumptions I went in with about what people would think and say,” Emily said. “Over the last few days, most of those have been blown away in a good way.”

A recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelors of Arts in Asian Studies with a minor in International Studies, Emily is pursuing a Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University. As an emerging thought leader on U.S.-China security, Emily has been quoted in the CNN World and the UK’s Sunday Times. Given the intensity she puts into her chosen field, it is no surprise that she has brought the same passion to interacting with her fellow delegates.

“I’ve really enjoyed relationships that I’ve made so far,” Emily said.

FACE V: Gawie Kanjemba

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Gawie Kanjemba doesn’t take “no” for an answer. If he had, there would have been no way he could have risen from a modest childhood in the southwest African nation of Namibia to pursuing a master’s degree at the famed Sciences Po – Paris.

As he advanced through his studies and career, Gawie’s dreams also grew — from aspiring to teach at his local school to possessing the global influence, knowledge, and power needed to sail his country to greater heights. Given his goals, he quickly realized that a sophisticated knowledge of the U.S.-China relationship was critical to translating ambition into action.

“I recognized that the United States and China will likely remain the two most influential countries for the remainder of the 21st century, especially for emerging economies like my own,” Gawie stated. “The day to day decisions of these two superpowers can be felt as far as a small village in northern Namibia. It is thus crucial to observe and learn how to engage these two countries as individuals, and as partners to one another and to other states.”

Having traveled far to attend the FACES Summit, Gawie has felt amply rewarded. He has found a new sense of invigoration engaging with the diverse range of perspectives his peers bring to the Summit.

“I’ve found new views, contrasting views, of what’s been going on,” Gawie said. “And I love it.”

While he’s greatly enjoyed the speakers featured at the Summit, Gawie is clear on the chief reason why he’s here.

“The people, always the people,” Gawie responded when asked what he’s enjoyed most about the Summit so far. “The networks are invaluable, and getting to bond with everyone has been stunning.”

Face VI: Sibo Liu

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Sibo Liu isn’t new to FACES. In fact, as Co-President of the FACES chapter at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, she’s been engaging with tough issues in the world of U.S.-China relations for years. The experience of learning from the top academic, business, and diplomatic leaders FACES features at its Annual Summit, however, has proved powerful.

“I was incredibly impressed by some of the professors and their knowledge on China,” Sibo remarked. “I have really gained a lot of insights from these last few days.”

Equally impressive for her has been learning from the perspectives of her fellow delegates — building friendships she hopes will last for a lifetime.

“The cohort has been really nice,” Sibo said. “As everyone’s from different parts of the world, it’s been great to communicate with one another. I’m excited to have a long-term relationship with all of them.”

FACES VII: Marcin Mateusz Jerzewski

A true global citizen, Marcin Mateusz Jerzewski speaks seven languages and has attended school on three continents. This autumn, however, Marcin traveled nearly thirteen thousand miles to gain something new — the honest, one-on-one perspectives of his peers.

“It is so important to have these people-to-people level interactions, because we tend to rely too much on the elite aspect of international relations. We need to avoid the ivory tower of similar views,” Marcin expressed.

Marcin has conducted research at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of his native Poland, and presented papers on topics ranging from China-Latin America relations, to Europe’s shifting position in a globalizing world, to Chinese film culture. Now at Taipei’s National Chengchi University, he is ready to take the next step onto true impact on the U.S.-China stage. Marcin believes that next step starts with FACES.

“It’s been an excellent blend of academic, professional, and personal perspectives,” he says.