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The Chinese Surveillance Technology Industry and its Reception in African Countries

September 22, 2023

12:20 pm - 1:20 pm

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Austin Hall; 308 Morgan Meeting Room

Bulelani Jili’s research seeks to offer insights into how China’s domestic surveillance market and cyber capability ecosystem operate, especially given the limited number of systematic studies that have analyzed its industry objectives. For the Chinese government, investment in surveillance technologies advances both its ambitions of becoming a global technology leader as well as its means of domestic social control. These developments also foster further collaboration between state security actors and private tech firms. Accordingly, the tech firms that support state cyber capabilities range from small cyber research startups to leading global tech enterprises. The state promotes surveillance technology and practices abroad through diplomatic exchanges, law enforcement cooperation, and training programs. These efforts encourage the dissemination of surveillance devices, but also support the government’s goals concerning international norm-making in multilateral and regional institutions.

The proliferation of Chinese surveillance technology and cyber tools and the associated linkages between both state and private Chinese entities with those in other states, especially in the Global South, is a valuable component of Chinese state efforts to expand and strengthen their political and economic influence worldwide. Although individual governments purchasing Chinese digital tools have their local ambitions in mind, Beijing’s export and promotion of domestic surveillance technologies shape the adoption of these tools in the Global South. As such, investigating how Chinese actors leverage demand factors for their own aims, does not undercut the ability of other countries to detect and determine outcomes. Rather it demonstrates an interplay between Chinese state strategy and local political environments. In this presentation, Mr. Jili will focus on key features in China’s surveillance ecosystem, and touch upon the key ‘pull factors’ from African countries and their significance for US interests.

Speaker Profile:

Bulelani Jili is a Meta Ph.D. Research Fellow at Harvard University, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in African studies and anthropology. His research interests include Africa-China relations; Cybersecurity; ICT development; African Political Economy; Internet Policy; Chinese Business Law; Law and Development; and Privacy Law. He is also a Cybersecurity Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; a Fellow at the Atlantic Council; a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School; and is conducting research with the China, Law, Development project at Oxford University. Born in Durban, South Africa, he received an M.Phil. from Cambridge University, M.A. in Economics from Peking University, and B.A., in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Wesleyan University.

Boxed lunch will be provided.

Sponsored by East Asian Legal Studies. Co-sponsored by the Department of African and African American Studies and the Department of Anthropology.

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September 22, 2023, 12:20 pm - 1:20 pm

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