Artificial Intelligence and China’s Authoritarian Governance

Zeng, Jinghan (2020) Artificial Intelligence and China’s Authoritarian Governance. International Affairs, 96 (6). 1441–1459. ISSN 0020-5850

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China has adopted a proactive and strategic approach to embrace the age of artificial intelligence (AI). This article argues that China's bold AI practices are part of its broad and incoherent adaptation strategy to governance by digital means. AI is part of a digital technology package that the Chinese authoritarian regime has actively employed not only to improve public service, but also to strengthen its authoritarian governance. China's digital progress benefits from its huge internet market, strong state power and weak civil awareness, making it more competitive than western democratic societies where privacy concern restricts their AI development. However, China's ambitious AI plan contains considerable risks; its overall impact depends on how AI affects major sources of political legitimacy including economic growth, social stability and ideology. China's approach is gambling on its success in (a) delivering a booming AI economy, (b) ensuring a smooth social transformation towards the age of AI and (c) proving ideological superiority of its authoritarian and communist values.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
International Affairs
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in International Affairs following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Jinghan Zeng, Artificial intelligence and China's authoritarian governance, International Affairs, Volume 96, Issue 6, November 2020, Pages 1441–1459 is available online at:
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22 Sep 2020 08:25
Last Modified:
11 Dec 2023 01:16