By James Stavridis and Frances Townsend
President Biden’s first foreign trip rightly focused on the areas in which the United States and Europe can cooperate and address the challenges facing democratic nations. It also rightly focused on the growing threat China poses to our global economy and security, particularly as it relates to technology and the internet.
On the heels of these productive sessions at the G7 and Brussels Forum, the importance of technology will continue to be at the center of the global agenda between the transatlantic allies as talks to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been revived as the proposed Trade and Technology Council (TTC).
The creation of a TTC, which would create real global digital standards that are built upon the values of privacy, human rights, and promoting democratic values, is a timely and welcome development. Moreover, it can serve as a united democratic bulwark against the growing threat of authoritarian governments like China gaining influence in the tech sector.
The question now is, will it result in much-needed action?
For context, the Chinese and Russian governments, among other authoritarian regimes, have increasingly leveraged technology for ill: using it to clamp down on protests, surveil their citizens and suppress online free speech through stringent censorship. During last year’s pro-democracy protests, the Chinese government utilized its surveillance technology to track and arrest demonstrators. This vast network of facial recognition technology was concurrently used to track and repress the Uyghur minority in Xianjing. Following the protests, the government then moved to bring the “Great Firewall of China,” the apparatus that censors the country’s internet, to Hong Kong through a controversial “security” law.