China aspires to be tomorrow’s digital hegemon via the strategic export of its surveillance state to developing and autocratic countries. The sale of surveillance equipment, software, and services enables existing regimes to better control their populations, thereby strengthening or facilitating the spread of authoritarian governance. The sale of surveillance technology also increases the dependence of client governments on Beijing for their political survival. This emerging network of technologically dependent authoritarian regimes represents Beijing’s digital hegemony in the developing world.
To combat growing Chinese influence in the developing world, the United States should use its resources to encourage the private sector to develop technological solutions to undermine digital authoritarianism and remove dependency on China. Additionally, Washington should work with developing states to build their cybersecurity expertise. Finally, the United States should impose costs on states who practice digital authoritarianism.