Economics

Digital Policy

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  • Education
    Higher Education Webinar: Navigating Digital Equity
    Play
    Mordecai Ian Brownlee, president of the Community College of Aurora, will lead the conversation on navigating the digital equity gap in higher education.   FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Mordecai Ian Brownlee with us today to talk about the digital equity gap in higher education. Dr. Brownlee is president of the Community College of Aurora in Colorado. He also teaches for Lamar University in the College of Education and Human Development. Dr. Brownlee publishes frequently and serves as a columnist for EdSurge. He has been featured on a number of national platforms including by Diverse Issues in Higher Education magazine as a new school leader representing the next generation of college presidents, and he was most recently appointed to serve on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Colleges. So, Dr. Brownlee, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. I thought we could begin by having you define digital equity and give us an overview of the digital equity gap in higher education, and I know you are going to share a presentation with us so we look forward to seeing that on screen. BROWNLEE: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the opportunity to the Council on Foreign Relations. Just thank you all so much. And to answer that question as we talk about digital equity, it’s the assurance of ensuring that all have access to the information technology available and to have the capacity to engage in society and productive citizenship. And so we’ll talk about that and let me just start sharing the screen and we’ll jump right into it. All right. Here we go. So, once again, thank you all for the opportunity, again, to the Council of Foreign Relations for this opportunity to talk about navigating digital equity. Bringing greetings on behalf of the Community College of Aurora here in Aurora, Colorado. And let’s just jump right into it. You know, as we talk about defining this work, how to navigate this work, we have to first understand the work, and to understand digital equity we must first understand the digital divide. And so, you know, as we talked about the digital divide at the beginning of the pandemic it, certainly, was dealing with the voice and mindset, the texture and tone, of accessibility and being able to engage in learning throughout the pandemic and, first of all, I would say as educators it’s so critical that even as we are, quote/unquote, “coming out of the pandemic” that we still acknowledge part of the challenges that are happening across the country and across the world in regards to accessibility—equitable accessibility to information technology, to the tools, and to have the capacity to not only learn but, certainly, engage in the economy and society. So as we talk about digital equity, we must understand the digital divide and so let’s kind of define that. One of my favorite definitions for the digital divide defined comes from the National League of Cities and they say the digital divide is the gap between individuals who have access to computers, high-speed internet, and the skills to use them, and those who do not. There’s two critical components as we talk about digital equity that I want to call out with the digital divide definition here. One is access. The other is skill. Access and skill. So as we think about equity and just think about how do we level the playing field, how do we close the gap on accessibility and skill attainment to engage. And it’s not just being able to access and that’s the other—I think the complexity here as we think about the term equity because just because I provide you the computer, right—and we found this during the pandemic—just because I provide you the computer do you even have broadband access? And if you have broadband access do you have dependable sustainable broadband access? And then if you have sustainable broadband access, are you skilled to not only learn but and engage through this instrument and tool, and that in itself is where we have found there to be challenges as we think throughout the pandemic and, certainly, beyond the pandemic on what we must do to close the gap for equity and the digital divide. So digital divide provides that access, skill. Equity will then take us deeper into this work. Here are key factors I want to call out in regards to how we must eradicate or address these challenges, these factors, in order to close the gap on the digital divide. Number one, what we have seen through research—and digitalresponsibility.org has done a great job of calling this out—number one, age-related issues as we think about the various generations that are engaged in society and still present in society. We have digital natives. I consider myself to be a digital native as a millennial. But this is very different than previous generations that may not have had the proper training and skill and their jobs do not have them engaging, utilizing these tools and instruments on a regular basis and so that in itself has created some challenges. And, again, there is, certainly, all those that are outliers and those among the generations that have been able to engage in these instruments and tools. However, it is truly a fact through research that age-related issues have been a part of this challenge, more specifically, speaking to our older population. Socioeconomic factors—have to talk about it. I think about it, especially in the higher education space. Our tribal institutions is where I’ve heard throughout the pandemic some of our most severe challenges that have been experienced in regards to the digital divide. One of the stories that I heard that just breaks my heart—I remember the first time I heard it, it truly had me in tears—we were at the height of the pandemic at this point and what we were learning is in one particular tribal community in order for those students to complete—these are young K-12 students—in order for them to complete their assignments they had elders and community members of that tribe that would walk the students up to the highest point on the mountain within that particular tribal territory just to be able to pick up an internet signal, and they were able to do this when there was not as much traffic on that internet broadband access—that grid, if you will. And so those students were having to do their work—their homework—between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. in the morning. Very interesting reality—unfortunate reality. We, certainly, have to come up with the solutions to addressing this. This in itself is part of that digital divide conversation. Geographic causes—it depends on where you are in the country. I remember at one point in time I was teaching and served the University of Charleston out of Charleston, West Virginia, and for those that are familiar with that part of the country in the Appalachia, I would have my students that were having to use their own cell phones in order to complete their assignments and upload their assignments. They did not have either, in some cases, the actual tools or accessibility, would have to drive in to more populated spaces to pick up a signal. This was impacting their learning experience. This in itself is all a part of that digital divide. Last, certainly, not least, racial, culture, language. All of this plays a role and more in that skill set component along with accessibility component and how are we going to as educators, as key stakeholders within our community, leaders, be a part of the solution to close that divide. Age-related issues, socioeconomic factors, geographic causes, racial, cultural, and language. Again, digitalresponsibility.org is the source on that there. Step two, to navigate digital equity we must understand digital equity, and so now we’re going to go and delve into what does it mean—what does digital equity mean. So I’m taking my definition, again, from the National League of Cities. Digital equity is a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy. This is huge. So, again, as you heard me talk about the digital divide just moments ago, it’s the component of accessibility and skill. That skill is then where we get into productive citizenship through society, democracy, and economy, and so now we’re talking about how does this tool, this instrument—it’s much more than just accessibility. Now how do I engage? How am I advancing my family, my economic—social economic realities through this instrument and tool? The definition goes on to say—again, by the National League of Cities—digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Case in point, life. As we think about all aspects of life from employment to social participation—as we think social media engagement, employment, we all understand what that means; lifelong learning, certainly as educators we have to think about that component—and then accessibility to the tools that we need, I think about my own child who this past weekend had to reach out for virtual assistance from medical care for an earache that he was having. My ability to have the skill set and accessibility to reach out, obtain those resources for my family, and engage through an electronic means to fulfill what my needs were are all a part of this equity. Life in itself should be able to remain whole in what I produce and how it is able to produce within me, and that is in itself digital equity. So step three, let’s discuss how to navigate digital equity in higher education and, again, hello to all of our educators that are on the call today. So here’s some tips that I want to leave for you on today just to think about, and I look forward to our conversation that we’re about to have here in a moment. Number one, as educators—and we’re talking about navigating digital equity—it is so important that we understand who we’re serving. I say that because, unfortunately, what can happen is especially as educators and we think about the economy, the disruptions that we’re experiencing in the marketplace right now, we’ll sometimes pursue who we want, not necessarily who we have, and that’s unfortunate. As we think about the respective institutional missions and the spaces in which we serve, we have to be mission centered and embrace who it is that we’re serving because we owe it to those students who are pursuing their academic endeavors and their professional endeavors through our respective institutions to totally be served. We must understand their realities. One of the conversations we have here at the Community College of Aurora is the conversation about you don’t know who is actually sitting, respectively, in that seat in that classroom and what they had to overcome in order to sit in that seat that particular day. Do we know how many bus routes they had to take? Do we understand the challenges that they were having with their children? Do we know are they now leaving their second job that they’ve worked for the past twenty-four hours to now sit in your classroom? So we have to understand, be aware, and approach that engagement with a sense of grace. I think that’s a word that we, perhaps, haven’t necessarily embraced in the academy in the way in which we have—should have, but now more than ever we have to. Secondly, create systems that level the learning engagement field. So it’s this idea of privilege—this thought of privilege—and, perhaps, what we assumed that everyone had access to and what everyone had the ability to engage with that they don’t necessarily have, and if they do have accessibility to it do we have a true understanding of what all they have to do to have that level of engagement and accessibility? Again, case in point, bus routes. Think about what’s happening around our country. There has been a reduction from a transportation standpoint financially, and many of the routes and the transportation services that have been provided—some of this due to disruption, others due to areas in which there have had to be a funneling of tax dollars and resources in other spaces and places in our communities. Long story short, the reality is, is that in many communities the bus routes have had to be reduced, which means that individuals are either having to walk or find ways to public accessibility to some of these resources in terms of broadband access and computer access. So then as we’re teaching and we’re instructing and we’re providing services, we have to think about how can we level the playing field and remove barriers? Does it have to be performed—does that learning outcome have to come in the form of computer access and broadband accessibility? And maybe it does, so this takes us to point number three. Let’s promote community resources to close the digital divide. I think that laser focus on how we’re going to close that divide creates this space for equity, and so, perhaps, it’s through libraries. There’s one organization out of North Carolina in some of their rural spaces they have now through grant funds created different spaces in their rural communities for those in more rural spaces to gain access to a computer lab and the grants are sustaining that accessibility through computer labs in those rural spaces. Amazing resource. There’s many others and examples that we can share around the country. So with that said, let’s promote these community resources. Sometimes it’s a library. Sometimes it’s a grant-funded opportunity. Sometimes it’s a local nonprofit. So let’s talk about how we can be creative in our respective communities to close the gap there. Fourth, adjust learning experiences to be more inclusive. Not only do we need to create the systems to level the playing field but we must then adjust the learning experiences to be more inclusive to create learning spaces and engagement spaces for all, going back to not only accessibility but skill. Last, certainly not least, providing institutional resources to close the digital divide. What I mean by this is, is that, in closing, due to—through the pandemic and many of our institutions received the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds—the HEERF funds. Those HEERF funds were utilized in many different ways. In many cases, we were able to do laptop loan programs. In some spaces they were even doing hotspot loan programs. And so now that we are coming out of the pandemic what does it look like to sustain these resources, OK, because now that we provide these resources how do we sustain them? How do we ensure that we’re having long-term engagements? One of the things that I want and I ask from my educators, especially administrators, to look at: How do we close this—(inaudible)—without placing the costs on the backs of our students? They already have enough going on. We don’t need to just move the cost of something on to their tuition and fees. How can we be even more creative with the engagements and enrollments of our students to being laser focused on what we’re doing to close, again, many of those factors and gaps that were highlighted earlier? So grateful for the opportunity. Have a website. Would love to engage with you all more. I know we’re getting ready to go into conversation. But itsdrmordecai.com and, again, thank you all so much for the opportunity. FASKIANOS: Fantastic. Thank you so much for that overview. So we’re going to go to all of you for your questions now. You can click the raised hand icon on your screen to ask a question, and on an iPad or a tablet click the more button to access the raised hand feature. When you’re called upon accept the unmute prompt and please state your name and affiliation followed by a question. You can also submit a written question by the Q&A icon and I will read out the question, and if you do write your question please include your affiliation just to give us a sense of where you’re coming from. And there are no questions as of yet but I know that will change, or else you were so thorough that nobody has questions. (Laughs.) So do you see now with the pandemic experience that there will be continued—I’m going to ask the first question—you know, that this has opened up the space now for deeper understanding of the digital divide and bringing the resources to bear? Or now that we’re kind of post-pandemic or whatever this is people have forgotten about it and are moving on? BROWNLEE: Thank you so much for the question, my friend. I think that it’s twofold. There’s two sides of this coin, right. So there’s the one side of the coin where the awareness now is so much deeper and richer than it ever has been because of the amount of resources and what it took to sustain since 2020 those resources that were being provided to the students in the community. So now there’s many that have learned and they’re now having those conversations about how to sustain the resources because, as we all know, while there’s been an extension of HEERF funds through the Department of Education, that day is coming to an end here pretty soon and so we have to talk about sustainability. The other side of that coin is, unfortunately, there are those that acknowledge what the realities were but their agenda is more on how do we move past it, not necessarily sustain what we were providing. That’s part of the issue for some that we have to address because we don’t just move on from hardship, right. That hardship is real and we have to still maintain a laser focus on how we’re going to close the digital divide, especially in the academic spaces, but also understanding our responsibility as not only educators but community leaders, stakeholders within our community, to be a part of the solutions and the expansions on equitable access and resources being made available. And so I think with both sides of those coins we’re seeing two different realities. But I think that there’s also a need now more than ever to maintain the senses of urgency around the haves and have nots and what we’re going to do to be a part of the solution to ensure that we’re raising the level of accessibility and skill for all within our communities. FASKIANOS: I noted in your presentation you talked about knowing who your students are. So what advice do you have for higher education educators and leaders who are trying to navigate the digital divide in their classroom and to get to know—to figure out where their students are coming from and what their needs may be? BROWNLEE: So, as we all know, especially in the IR space, right, there’s different tools, resources, that we can use to survey our students. There’s different splash pages, if you will, that we can utilize in terms of the enrollment processes or the readvising processes, or even think of some of our learning management tools that we can engage with students to determine what their needs truly are. I think that it’s important that we create tools and instruments that will have high engagement rates. Sometimes those have to be incentivized. But we have to think about outside of our normal student leader responses how we’re capturing the voice of all of our students. And so that’s those that would not typically provide response, and as we think about the digital divide we have to acknowledge that that tool, that instrument, can’t just be electronic. What are we going to do to have paper resources or maybe through phone conversations, outreach, being able to have, certainly, the walk around conversations around our respective campuses and the universities. And so we need to have those conversations to make sure that we’re capturing the voice of all of our students, I think, is in the true spirit of continued improvement. We have to understand who we serve and then acknowledge, through the development of systems and the recalibration of our student experiences, are the voice of these students. FASKIANOS: Right. And in terms of the skills, because community colleges are so focused on developing the skills, what specifically are you doing at Aurora or are you seeing in the community college space to help students develop those skills that they need to navigate digitally? BROWNLEE: Absolutely. One of the things I’ll talk about—and those that may not be aware and I don’t know who all has visited Denver—but the history of Aurora—Aurora is the most diverse community—city—in the state of Colorado. I call that out because immigrants—it has a strong—there’s a strong population in this community and so part of our young thirty-nine years of existence in this community has been providing English second language courses. We’re noticing that especially our immigrant families and communities that are seeking social and economic mobility, highly skilled from where they come from but now we must create learning opportunities to close that gap, not only through language but through accessibility in this American market. And so through our community ESL programs we’ve been able to educate upwards of two thousand students a year and walk them through the various levels of learning and engagement with the English language, and then at some point in that process—learning process—we then engage and begin the computer engagement in utilizing the English language in their native language and beginning to close that gap. So I think that that work in itself is a part of that digital equity that must be created—how do you create the foundation to build upon to then advance the engagement. And there’s been some other great examples that I’ve seen around the country in doing that work, a lot of grant programs that I’ve seen in respective communities. You heard me talk about what’s happening out there in the Carolinas. But I think about what’s also happening over in California. California has been a great state that’s been able to do some work about working and identifying through heat maps and institutional resource—research and resources and community resources, looking at demographics, identifying low socioeconomic spaces, and putting concentrated efforts in those particular communities to increase the level of engagement, accessibility, and skill, and it’s critical and key. FASKIANOS: Great. We have a question from Gloria Ayee. So if you can unmute yourself and state your affiliation. Q: Hello. Thank you so much for sharing this important work that you’re doing. I am Gloria Ayee and I am a lecturer and senior research fellow at Harvard University, and my question is about the connection between the digital divide and also how it mirrors to current inequities that we see in the educational system in general. So thinking about that type of relationship, what do you think are the most significant challenges to addressing the digital divide, given the issues that we continue to see with the educational system in general at all types of institutions, and what do you foresee as the best way to actually address these challenges? BROWNLEE: Oh, that’s a great question. Great question. Thank you so much for asking that question, Gloria. I would say two things come to mind—funding and agenda, right. So if—I’ll tell you what comes to mind for me. So as we think about financially and we look at how these institutions are funded around the country, let’s think K-12. So grade schools. Think K-12. Let’s also think higher education. Are we talking headcount? Are we talking full-time equivalency? Are we talking success points? Are we talking—even as we think about developmental education, how are these institutions being funded to sustain the work of working especially with low socioeconomic communities? Let’s just take, for example, full-time equivalency, especially in this higher education space. So if I were someone who wanted to work to create programs that I’m going to help in the advancing and addressing of the digital divide and advancing digital equity, I need funds in order to do that. Now, could I pursue grant funds? Absolutely. But even—we all know that grant funds are not necessarily all the time sustainable funds. Short-term funds, but it still has to be a hard-lined. So then as we think about doing this work—I’ll go back to funding and agenda—realizing and looking at what would need to shift within particularly my state’s legislative agenda or, perhaps, in that particular district how the funding is occurring. If I’m working with a high population, which we are here at the Community College of Aurora—a high population of part-time students, these are students that are maybe taking one class and engaging. However, if I’m funded by a full-time equivalency model it then takes several students that are taking one class to then equal that one full-time equivalent, which then impacts my funding structure. So then how do I then serve, yet, I am seeking to obtain? And this is where we then get into, I think, a part of that friction of agenda and funding models. So I think that as we think equity—with an equity mindset beyond just the initiatives of overlay—we actually want to bake in the equity experience within our respective states and communities—then we’re going to have to take a look at the funding agenda, the agenda and funding—how are we truly going to advance equity and closing the digital divide. It has to be funded properly towards sustainability. We’ve seen this same thing occur in developmental education as well for those who’ve been a part of those conversations where we saw around the country there will be a reduction in developmental education funding, which has been impacted, in some cases, the success rates and resources that were historically provided through community colleges in certain communities. Same thing in this digital divide space and digital equity. So funding an agenda, and I think that the solution is, is really coming to the table and saying what does equity look like without it being an overlaid agenda, without it just being a conversation? What does it look like for it to be baked into the experience of how we’re going to transform lives, which then means that, in many cases, legislatively and funding models. We have to move from a transactional mindset to a transformational mindset and we have to go all in on ensuring that we’re creating equitable communities and engagements for those that we serve. Oh, you’re muted, my friend. FASKIANOS: Yes. Thank you. After two-and-a-half years—(laughter)—I should know that. Encourage all of you to share your best practices and what you’re doing in your communities as well. You know, we have seen the Biden administration really focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion. They’re focusing on bringing more diversity to the State Department and other parts of the government. Is the Department of Education looking at the funding model? Is this an area that they are actively trying to reform and adjust? BROWNLEE: I get the sense—and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking in front of several legislators in different venues—I get the sense that there is a major conversation that’s happening. I do. I truly get the sense that there’s a major conversation happening, not just with our current administration from thinking about our U.S. president but also thinking local legislators as well. I really think that there’s conversations—many conversations that are happening. If anything, I feel as though the major—I don’t want to use the word barrier so I’m searching for the appropriate word here. But I think the major hurdle that we’re going to have to think about is how we have built and designed our funding models to date. You know, some of these funding models were built in early 1990s, mid-1990s in some cases. Really, you don’t see it too much early 2000s, and so we have older financial modeling infrastructure that we’re trying to pursue this work and how to change it. And so it can’t be a Band-Aid approach. I think in some spaces and communities that’s what’s been done is that rather than changing the actual model, the infrastructure itself, it’s received a Band-Aid in the form of grants. And I do believe that grants are significant and, certainly, necessary and appreciated. However, I think that we’re reaching a point in society where there has to be a total restructuring of our funding models and taking a look at what percentages are going where, taking a look at the demographics in our respective communities, taking a look at the economic realities in our respective communities. Take a look at just how much the demographics are shifting in our respective communities and building a model that’s ready to engage, sustain, and raise the level for all, and I think that we’re on our way. I, certainly, hope that we are. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Rufus Glasper. Q: I am here. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. Q: Hi, Mordecai. How are you today? BROWNLEE: How are you, sir? Q: Hi, Irina. FASKIANOS: Hi, Rufus. Great to hear from you. Q: Mordecai, talk a little bit about digital equity and faculty. How have they accepted, rejected, embraced what you were describing as all of the different factors that are affecting our students, and what kind of practices have you developed or can be developed to ensure that faculty can continue the progress and include our students who are most needy? BROWNLEE: Great question, Dr. Glasper. I didn’t expect anything different coming from you. So, let me just say, we’ve had some very intense conversations, and I have to really give our faculty and our instructors kudos because I will tell you this is probably by far one of the most engaged communities that I’ve ever worked in of educators that are committed to just truly getting to the solution. There’s some strong work that was done around inclusive excellence here at the Community College of Aurora, certainly, prior to my arrival. It led to this college receiving an Inclusive Excellence Award from the American Association of Community Colleges right around 2017. Part of their work at that time was looking at, as our faculty and our academy, how were we going to close the gap on success rates, particularly in English and math, and part of that work was creating resources towards gap closure to ensure that those that had not traditionally and historically had access to some of those learning materials and plans and resources that they were being provided those in a more intensive way. Now as we think more into the digital space and, certainly, think through the pandemic, what we’ve now done as an institution is that we’ve become—Community College of Aurora has become the very first Achieving the Dream institution in the state of Colorado and one of the projects that our faculty and our instructors are delving into—I’ve got a big meeting tomorrow on this, matter of fact—is taking a look at the respective success rates in our gateway courses—our key courses that are gateways into our respective academic programs—and asking ourselves how can we create more equitable learning experiences. Two things—critical things—that I’ve seen our faculty do. Number one, looking at the data. I think that the data is key and critical—taking a look, disaggregating that data. And our faculty and our instructors continue to do that work, looking at a three-year spread, a five-year spread, and saying: Where is the success occurring? Who’s it occurring with and those respective identities of those students? And then really asking the hard questions: Why isn’t this population succeeding at the same rate as this population? The other part of this criticality is, is also then accepting that there can’t be an excuse in the work. There can’t be an excuse in the work and that we must ensure then that we are creating the equitable resources and infrastructure to close the gap, create learning experiences, and say, listen, if our students can’t access the internet and the Web then what can we do to create for them the resources, whether it be paper? If they can’t come to the teaching demonstration at this particular day how can I create an opportunity for them to engage and obtain that information at another given time? Perhaps they’re a working parent and can’t necessarily attend at 10:00 a.m. but they can at 5:00 p.m. What are we doing to level the playing field with accessibility? And the other aspect of that is just that our faculty and instructors have been partnering to create these more holistic learning engagement opportunities where if we’re having a conversation in English then what can we do within our math department and almost cohorting, in a sense, the learning experiences amongst those two separate classes but then creating like engagements where the same conversations happening in English could be happening in math and science to begin to bring about a new learning within the students to say, OK, well, this particular world issue, now I’m understanding it through various lenses and I understand the interconnectivity in these learning experiences. And so more integrated learning, and I think that we’ve got a long way to go but we’re committed to doing that work. FASKIANOS: So Rufus Glasper is the chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges, and I just thought I would ask you, Rufus, to maybe share your experience as the chancellor what has been working in your community. Q: I am the chancellor emeritus. I have not been at the colleges for a little over six years now. But I am the president and CEO for the League for Innovation in the Community College. And one of the things that I’d like to connect with with our experience right now we are involved in the state of Arizona with a project which is—which we are embracing. We are working with four different types of institutions right now—urban metropolitan, we have a couple of rural institutions and we have a couple of tribal, and we’re trying to make that connectiveness between insecurities—student insecurities. So we’re looking at housing. We’re looking at hunger. We’re looking at jobs. And one of the things that we have found is that we can’t make either of these items connect and work without broadband first, and the reason being when you’re looking at access it’s critical when you start to look at the activities that are occurring throughout the U.S. now and specifically within Arizona—I’ll talk about the connections we have now made that are national in scope, that are city, town, and county in scope, and the commitments that we are now working to obtain from all of those who are in position relative to enhancing broadband access and digital equity. There’s actually a Center for Digital Equity at Arizona State University (ASU), and last week we had a gathering of all of our institutions to get a better understanding of what does digital equity mean as it comes from the ASU center. What does it mean for each of our different types of institutions, and I will tell you that the one that was hardest hit was the one you talked about and that’s tribal just in terms of access, in terms of resources. But I am pleased with the dollars that are out there now at all levels. So if this is a time for us to increase access, increase affordability, than I think we should seize the moment. My question then, which would lead to another one, is on the whole notion of sustainability and you talked about that in terms of stimulus kinds of resources, and equity is in everyone’s face right now, especially broadband and others. Is it a sustainable initiative and focus and what are the elements that need to be connected in order to make sure that it stays in the forefront and that our students who may have benefited from buses sitting in their neighborhood during the pandemic and others but are still trying to make choices? And I’ll make the last connection point, and you made the opening—how flexible should our institutions be around work-based learning so that our students who are not able to come to the campus and be there on a regular basis but want to balance having a virtual environment? Do you see a balance coming or do you see us forced into staying the old, antiquated model of face-to-face classes and sixteen and eighteen weeks? BROWNLEE: Let me start with the sustainability component then. Thank you again, Dr. Glasper. From a sustainability standpoint, I’ll say here at the institution part of the conversation—it’s a hard conversation. But I encourage every educator to have this conversation, this brave conversation, in your spaces. Let’s take a look at your success rates, and I’m just particularly speaking to higher education right now. Let’s take a look at your various academic profiles. Let’s take a look at what has been your engagements with your workforce partners, your advisory councils, in many cases, and let’s talk about two things—one, the sustainability of those programs and, two, the social and economic mobility of those programs directly to workforce. I think what we will find is what we found here at the Community College of Aurora is that over time the various disruptions that have occurred has shifted the needs of our students. However, the institutions respectively delivering these services have not shifted with the times. And so it is quite possible that either our approach to the work or the actual lack of proper programming is prohibiting social and economic mobility in many of these communities and especially for us. Fifty-two percent of our students are first generation. Sixty-seven percent of our students are students of color. So as we talk about sustainability, we’re right there on the front line of having to take a look at enrollment, full-time equivalency, completion, graduation, and employment rates, and we began to find a shifting of that. And so when we talk sustainability, I bring this up as a framework, if you will, to say once you’ve had those conversations now let’s talk about where there are losses—financial losses—and areas in which we can truly be innovative and reallocate dollars that were once going in certain areas and infuse that into other areas that are going to have a higher return. So I think thinking, truly, with a return on investment—an ROI mindset—will then help us to not only meet the needs of our mission, meet it in its current state and its current needs and the disruption that’s currently being experienced, which will then help create new opportunities for sustainability beyond what has just been HEERF funding or potential grant funding, it can be hardlined into the institutional mission. I think the other component of that sustainability, too, is looking at the strategic plans of our respective organizations, looking at those—not only the mission but the objectives and asking how equity is not necessarily a separate objective but equity is actually ingrained in all aspects of the objectives—the strategic objectives—because, at that point, we can then understand the significance in resourcing and funding equity all the way through the entirety of the institution. In regards to your latter question about work-based learning and the old model of doing things, I, certainly, believe and hope, Dr. Glasper, that there’s this new movement that’s occurring where we’re going to have to embrace, whether we like it or not, the next era of higher education, and that next era will require us to not approach things in the same modalities and same ways. We’re watching, especially in research, the confidence levels reduce—heavily reduced now in the public’s perception of what higher education is to provide in comparison to what it once provided. Higher education in many communities isn’t necessarily being seen as the sole or the primary tool towards social economic mobility as it once was twenty, thirty years ago. So what does this mean? Our approach to sixteen-week instruction is, certainly, going to have to be transformed. What does it look like to have five-week instruction? Eight-week instruction? What does it look like for us to have true noncredit instructional programs that’s in direct partnership with business and industry to ramp up the training and social economic mobility opportunities within our communities? Folks aren’t necessarily looking for a two-year or a four-year or a six-year learning experience. They need to put food on their family’s table today. What does it look like for them to engage with the institution and have that kind of learning experience, and we have to do it with a digital equity mindset, right, because they’re seeking opportunity. So it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have accessibility in their current state. We want to get them to a state where they can have that accessibility. So how then do we create those tools? One key component of this is even looking at our college application processes. What is the readability score on some of these applications? We want to educate those that may have a reading level of a—seventh or eighth grade reading level. But some of these college applications are reading at a fourteen, fifteen grade reading level. That in itself is creating a barrier to those that are seeking opportunity, that need the opportunity to up skill. And so I think that the old model is going to, in my opinion, and hopefully quickly deteriorate and we’re going to have to be more effective. But let me also say this. It is critical that we have our faculty and our instructors at the table. These decisions shouldn’t be thrown upon them. It should be conversations that we’re having collectively together, and then how can then we resource our faculty and our instructors and our staff to be a part of those solutions, drive those solutions, reinvest in them to be able to create more innovative and more, I’ll say the word, relevant learning experiences because I truly believe that relevance is not necessarily a word that we’ve used in higher education in terms of our approach, but now more than ever we’re going to have to. FASKIANOS: OK. So I’m going to take a written question from Nicole Muthoni, who is an entrepreneur and innovator at the University of Connecticut. She has been passionately working on bridging the divide in emergent nations, especially Kenya. Therefore, in this regard, the key factors creating the digital divide in this space is geographic causes, socioeconomic factors, and culture. So the question is what tools and programs can we use to effectively educate teachers to learn the necessary skills that they can use to teach their students in the classrooms. This is because most of the teachers have not been empowered with the necessary and needed skills for educating in the space of digital equity. BROWNLEE: I think—I began to speak to that right towards the end of what I was just sharing, right. FASKIANOS: Right. BROWNLEE: It’s this idea of we’ve got to get out of the blame game. Oh, I want you to come up with the solution. Well, how are you investing in me to be a part of the solution? How are you even engaging me in part of being the solution? You know, as I talked earlier about those conversations we’re having at CCA about what are those programs that have been unsustainable or times have shifted and changed and we needed to create some more relevant learning experiences. It is our faculty and our instructors that made that decision to be able to say, hey, it’s time to pivot. They were at the table. Not just present for the sake of inclusion but, truly, the decision makers in that work. Now, I think, the next component of this work as we talked about achieving the dream and us being the first in the state of Colorado, part of our strategic plan is creating a—we don’t have a name so just work with me here conceptually. We don’t have a name yet. But I can tell you what the desired outcome is, and the desired outcome is that we create a learning center for our faculty and our instructors to grow and to be invested in and to learn what are those emerging approaches that will—on the verge of becoming best practices. However, they’re not, quote/unquote, “best practices” around the country yet. What could we create here at CCA to be a part of those solutions? And also exposure to national best practice. What are we doing to invest into our people? So I think that part of that shifting that Dr. Glasper was calling out is going to have to occur now more than ever because, unfortunately, what’s happened, I think, in the academy too many of our instructors and faculty have been blamed. Too many of our staff had been blamed, not engaged and brought about to be the solution, and not just thrown right out there in the fire to say come up with something. No. You need to care for your folks more deeply, more passionately, and more genuinely than we have ever before and really ask the question how are we going to be relevant and make sure that our folks feel cared for and that they’re valued in the spaces in which they’re serving. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So the next question is from Krishna Garza-Baker from the University of Texas at San Antonio. What would you say is the role of private service providers and their ability to assist in reducing the digital divide? Are they doing enough to collaborate with higher education institutions to address this area, specifically, internet service providers? And I’m going to add on to that. What are your recommendations for how schools can and should be leveraging corporate and community partnerships to help address the digital divide? BROWNLEE: You know, you heard me earlier talk about how we can’t just do this overlay approach. Yes, I want to give you a voucher for reduced broadband access. That’s wonderful. It is. It is grateful. It’s better than not having it. But now let’s talk about how we’re truly going to hardline in opportunities for all. As we think about the spirit of advocacy, unfortunately, sometimes, as they say, it’s the squeaky wheel gets the grease, I think, is how it’s communicated. And so what I would say is, is that now we have to think about those that don’t have a voice how we’re still meeting their needs. And so working directly with corporate industry partners, those who have the access. What does it look like if we focus less on trying to make a dollar and more on trying to create opportunity? What would it look like if we all came about and said we want to be the solution to the issue? Yes, there’s areas and opportunities where we’ll make that dollar. But as we think about society as a whole, what does it look like to create experiences and a life for the goodness of all? And so I think that now we really more than ever have to have these conversations. More than ever it just can’t be who gets the voucher. It’s how do you create the accessibility for all, those who have a voice and those who know how to use their voice. And I think that—if I understand the nature of that question now, I will say with private entities, corporate partnerships, I think it’s more visibility in these colleges and universities and these nonprofit spaces beyond the cameras and just looking at the campaigns. What does it look like for us to have the conversations day in and day out to say we’re neighbors, we’re all going to collectively be a part of the solutions and to bring the rising up, if you will, of our communities to raise the level for all and that’s, certainly, what we’re seeking to do. We’ve seen some major responsiveness in this particular community to say, listen, outside of just some campaign and a picture, what does it look like for you all to be a part of our learning experience, a part of our community, a part of our solutions, and to hardline these experiences for all. So equity causes and it charges and it demands that, and we have to realize the power of that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Laila Bichara from SUNY Farmingdale. Many of my students are immigrants and are first-generation college students. My question is about skill transfer—once our students get access to technology for themselves and their families who are then losing their jobs due to automation. BROWNLEE: Demographic shift. I talked about it earlier. You know, I think about here in the Denver Metro area and I’m going to—I attended a site visit conversation with their chamber of commerce there in Denver. It was pretty telling. In looking at the demographics, it broke down how for millennials, I think, there’s currently—so there’s 3.3 million in the greater Denver area. It broke down for millennials, which I fall into this group—I think it was eight hundred and sixty-four thousand millennials currently in that space. Then it had Xers. Not Xers. It had generation Z. Z accounted for, roughly, six hundred thousand. But get this. So my children, my eight- and my four-year-old—they’re generation alpha—were only accounting for, roughly, three hundred thousand in the space currently right now. I say that as an example that I’m going to walk us through really quickly, and that is, is with the lens of equity and we think about the shifting and the disruptions in market and we think about especially now in the markets humanization versus automation, and we want to create social and economic mobility for these respective spaces wherever those realities are and we think about accessibility to the internet and we talk about that digital equity and the digital divide, we then have to have a high degree of urgency within us to say that what will—can we create today that will prevent communities of color and low socioeconomic communities that traditionally in this current market would have been given opportunities but that in the future market, due to a lack of potential skill and accessibility, will not be provided the resources and the opportunities that they once were in an automated world. And so what do we do then to make sure that they’re not the one pressing the button. They’re the one that’s coding the button, right, and that’s all a part of that work and that shifting. So it’s going to take stronger math and science skills and accessibility and equity all built into their learning experiences because if not the wide—we will widen the gap—the poverty gap—because we move, again, deeper into automation, lessen the humanization, and then we are essentially moving an entire population of folks further down the supply chain, if you will, which then will prohibit their learning—not learning, their earning ability. And so we have to be laser focused on those realities and, really, look to eradicate what’s going to be future barriers now so systematically we are able to address it. FASKIANOS: Great. So the last question I wanted to ask you is you’ve just completed your first year as president. What are the lessons that you’ve learned? BROWNLEE: Oh, my gosh. I will tell you that, you know, I just released an article on this talking about my first year in the presidency and through EdSurge and lessons learned, and one of those lessons I would say is is—that I highlighted in that article is, you know, don’t do more for an institution than you would do for your own family. I think that as educators, as community leaders, and anyone that’s on this call, I’ll just take the opportunity to encourage you. You know, sometimes we give our all to these entities in which we serve, and we do it and we give it countless hours. You know, we say it’s a forty-hour job but we’re probably spending fifty, sixty, seventy, if not more, and we get lost in that, right. And so there’s good work to be done. However, what is the biggest mockery of all to save the world but lose your own family? And I think that part of my lesson that I had to really reflect on was, like, right now as I’m giving this lecture my eight-year-old son is here in the office with me right now that I’m trying to get to be quiet and work with me as I’m giving—having this time with you all now, right. He doesn’t have school today. It’s an in-service day. But really creating those engagements for my family to be engaged in the experiences and making sure that they’re part of the process. I think the other component of this is, too—and I talked about this in the article—is realizing that it is a privilege to serve, never taking for granted the ability, the opportunity, that we have to serve because there’s others that wish that they had these opportunities. So, yes, even in our most—our days of most frustration it still is a pleasure and a blessing and an opportunity to serve and honor. And so what would life look like if we embraced it for the pleasure and the honor that it truly is and how we treat and create spaces for others to thrive, because they’re sacrificing being away from their families and loved ones to do this work. We need to create more communities for all to thrive. FASKIANOS: Oh, your son should be very proud of you. I have to say that—what a role model. BROWNLEE: Thank you. FASKIANOS: I’m going to go next to Laurette Foster. Laurette, please say your affiliation. It’s great to have you on. Q: Hi. Laurette Foster, Prairie View A&M University in Texas. And I really don’t have a question. I just want to say how delighted I was to hear the conversation and hear about what the next steps are, because looking back at the pandemic and how we wanted to step up and do so much and I’m just afraid that even though we did those things that needed to be done that many of us now are settling back into the old ways. And it’s still funny that when you told the story about the tribal community happened to go to the top of the mountain from 2:00 in the morning to do—the passion for education is there with the kids. But we have to continue to do our part. So I just appreciate all the comments and—that you did today. It was really enlightening. So thank you very much. BROWNLEE: And thank you, and I will say that my wife is a proud product of Prairie View A&M. The Hill as well. So just thank you for your comments. FASKIANOS: We have another thank you from John Marks of LSU of Alexandria just saying that it was really great to take time out of his day and to—said they—definitely in Louisiana access and skills are, indeed, real obstacles that are typical of every online class that he’s taught. I’m going to take the final question from Haetham Abdul-Razaq from Northwest Vista College, again, from San Antonio, Texas, working on a research project regarding online learning and community college students. One of the interesting findings is that some students might be considered as tech savvy, yet they have problems engaging in online classes. Do you think that we should build on the strengths of our students’ digital knowledge when it comes to these sorts of skills? BROWNLEE: Great question. Absolutely. I think, you know, we talk about creating student-centered approaches and sometimes we’re successful at that and other times we’re not, perhaps, because if we were to really delve into student-centered approaches just how far from our base currently of how we approach higher education just how far it’ll take us. But I would say, going back to an earlier conversation, now’s the time more than ever to go there. Matter of fact, we should have went there already before. It’s time, truly, for a revolution and an evolution in our approach to learning and engagement and advancement with an equity lens. And I go back to that word relevance. We have to create more relevant learning experiences. Think about business and industry. If we look at what’s happened over the past ten years due to some of our bureaucracies and our lack of responsiveness. Look at business and industry. They’re creating learning experiences right around higher education, in some cases not even engaging higher education anymore, directly working with middle schools and high schools to create their own strong pipelines. What has happened that that even came about, right? And so due to a lack of responsiveness, perhaps, innovation—true innovation—and that student-centered approach that we, perhaps, moved far from or maybe just took parts of that was easier to tackle, not the harder aspects of that, and so we now have to tackle it. We have to embrace it, because if not I think that five, ten years from now, certainly, twenty years from now, we’ll have more institutional closures, more reductions in enrollments, if we fail to be responsive and create these more equitable learning opportunities that are geared at creating a digital equity. FASKIANOS: Right. Well, we are just at the end of our time. Thank you very much, Dr. Mordecai Brownlee. We really appreciate your being with us and sharing your insights, and to all of you for your questions and comments. And so you can follow Dr. Mordecai and also go to his website, itsdrmordecai.com, and at @itsdrmordecai, correct? BROWNLEE: That is correct. That is correct. I look forward to engaging with everyone. FASKIANOS: Wonderful. We really appreciate it. Just as a reminder for all of you, our next Higher Education webinar will be on Wednesday, November 2, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Rebecca Granato, associate vice president for global initiatives at Bard College, will talk about refugees, migration, and education. So we hope you’ll tune in for that. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out CFR fellowships for educators at CFR.org/fellowships, and this is a program that allows educators to come for a year in residence at CFR or else go work in—we place you in government to get some policy-relevant experience. The deadline is October 31. So if you’re interested email us and we can send you information about that. Also, go to CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis, and follow us at @CFR_Academic. Thank you all again. Thank you, Dr. Brownlee. We appreciate it, and we hope you have a good rest of the day. (END)  

Experts in this Topic

James P. Dougherty
James P. Dougherty

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Business and Foreign Policy

Lauren Kahn
Lauren Kahn

Research Fellow

Adam Segal
Adam Segal

Ira A. Lipman Chair in Emerging Technologies and National Security and Director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Tarah Wheeler
Tarah Wheeler

Senior Fellow for Global Cyber Policy

  • Digital Policy
    Renewing America Series: The U.S. Digital Divide
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    As the United States continues to transition to a knowledge economy, entire regions are being left behind due to the automation of jobs, lack of computers and high-speed internet, and the impossibility for many employees to work from home. Panelists discuss the digital divide, why it poses a problem to U.S. economic strength and competitiveness, and possible solutions for bridging the digital gap.  With its Renewing America initiative, CFR is evaluating nine critical domestic issues that shape the ability of the United States to navigate a demanding, competitive, and dangerous world.
  • China
    Academic Webinar: Cyberspace and U.S.-China Relations
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    Adam Segal, Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at CFR, leads a conversation on cyberspace and U.S.-China relations. FASKIANOS: Welcome to the first session of the Winter/Spring 2022 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Adam Segal with us to discuss cyberspace and U.S.-China relations. Adam Segal is CFR’s Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and director of the Council’s Digital and Cyberspace Policy program. Previously, he served as an arms control analyst for the China Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, MIT’s Center for International Studies, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and Tsinghua University in Beijing. And he’s taught courses at Vassar College and Columbia University. Dr. Segal currently writes for the CFR blog, Net Politics—you should all sign up for those alerts, if you haven’t already. And he is the author several books, including his latest, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age. So, Adam, thanks very much for being with us. We can begin with a very broad brush at cyberspace, the role cyberspace plays in U.S.-China relations, and have you make a few comments on the salient points. And then we’ll open it up to the group for questions. SEGAL: Great. Irina, thanks very much. And thanks, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. I’m looking forward to the questions and the discussion. So broadly, I’m going to argue that the U.S. and China have the most far-reaching competition in cyberspace of any countries. And that competition goes all the way from the chip level to the rules of the road. So global governance all the way down the to the chips that we have in all of our phones. Coincidentally, and nicely timed, last week the Washington Post did a survey of their network of cyber experts about who was the greater threat to the United States, China or Russia. And it was actually almost exactly evenly split—forty to thirty-nine. But I, not surprisingly, fell into the China school. And my thinking is caught very nicely by a quote from Rob Joyce, who’s a director at the National Security Agency, that Russia is like a hurricane while China is like climate change. So Russia causes sudden, kind of unpredictable damage. But China represents a long-term strategic threat. When we think about cyberspace, I think it’s good to think about why it matters to both sides. And on the Chinese side, I think there are four primary concerns. The first is domestic stability, right? So China is worried that the outside internet will influence domestic stability and regime legitimacy. And so that’s why it’s built an incredibly sophisticated system for controlling information inside of China that relies both on technology, and intermediate liability, and other types of regulation. China is worried about technological dependence on other players, in particular the U.S., for semiconductors, network equipment, and other technologies. And they see cybersecurity as a way of reducing that technology. China has legitimate cybersecurity concerns like every other country. They’re worried about attacks on their networks. And the Snowden revelations from the—Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor—show that the U.S. has significant cyber capabilities, and it has attacked and exploited vulnerabilities inside of China. And while the Chinese might have used to think that they were less vulnerable to cyberattacks given the shape of the Chinese network in the past, I think that probably changed around 2014-2015, especially as the Chinese economy has become increasingly dependent on ecommerce and digital technology. It’s now—GDP is about a third dependent on digital technology. So they’re worried about the same types of attacks the United States is worried about. And then, fourth and finally, China does not want the United States to be able to kind of define the rules of the road globally on cyber, create containing alliances around digital or cyber issues, and wants to constrain the ability of the U.S. to freely maneuver in cyberspace. Those are China’s views. The U.S. has stated that it’s working for a free, open, global, and interoperable internet, or an interoperable cyberspace. But when it looks at China, it has a number of specific concerns. The first is Chinese cyber operations, in particular Chinese espionage, and in particular from that Chinese industrial espionage, right? So the Chinese are known for being the most prolific operators, stealing intellectual property. But they’re also hacking into political networks, going after think tanks, hacking activists—Uighur activists, Tibetan activists, Taiwanese independence activists. We know they’re entering into networks to prepare the battlefield, right, so to map critical infrastructure in case there is a kinetic conflict with the United States—perhaps in the South China Sea or over the Taiwan Strait—and they want to be able to deter the U.S., or perhaps cause destructive attacks on the U.S. homeland, or U.S. bases in South Korea, or Japan. The U.S. is also extremely concerned about the global expansion of Chinese tech firms and Chinese platforms, for the collection of data, right? The U.S. exploited the globalization of U.S. tech firms. Again, that was something that we learned from the Snowden documents, that the U.S. both had legal and extralegal measures to be able to get data from users all around the world because of their knowledge of and relationship to U.S. tech firms. And there’s no reason to believe that the Chinese will not do the same. Now, we hear a lot about, you know, Huawei and the national intelligence law in China that seems to require Chinese companies to turnover data. But it would be very hard to believe that the Chinese would not want to do the same thing that the U.S. has done, which is exploit these tech platforms. And then finally, there is increasingly a framing of this debate as one over values or ideology, right? That democracies use cybertechnologies or digital technologies in a different way than China does. China’s promoting digital authoritarianism, that has to do about control of information as well as surveillance. And the U.S. has really pushed back and said, you know, democracies have to describe how we’re going to use these technologies. Now, the competition has played itself out both domestically and internationally. The Chinese have been incredibly active domestically. Xi Jinping declared that cybersecurity was national security. He took control of a small leadership group that became a separate commission. The Cyberspace Administration of China was established and given lots of powers on regulating cybersecurity. We had a creation of three important laws—the cybersecurity law, the data security law, and the private—personal information protection law. We see China pushing very hard on specific technologies they think are going to be important for this competition, especially AI and quantum. And we see China pushing diplomatically, partly through the idea of what’s called cyber-sovereignty. So not the idea that internet is free and open and should be somewhat free from government regulation, but instead that cyberspace, like every other space, is going to be regulated, and that states should be free to do it as they see fit, as fits their own political and social characteristics, and they should not be criticized by other states. They promoted this view through U.N. organizations in particular. And they’ve been working with the Russians to have a kind of treaty on information and communication technologies that would include not only cybersecurity, but their concerns about content and the free flow of information. The U.S. right now is essentially continuing a policy that was started under the Trump administration. So part of that is to try and stop the flow of technology to Chinese firms, and in particular to handicap and damage Huawei, the Chinese telecom supplier, to put pressure on friends to not use Huawei. But the most important thing it did was put Huawei on an entity list, which cut it off from semiconductors, most importantly from Taiwan Semiconductor, which has really hurt the Huawei of products. The U.S. tried to come to an agreement about—with China about what types of espionage are considered legitimate. And not surprisingly, the U.S. said there was good hacking and back hacking. And the good hacking is the type of hacking that the U.S. tends to do, and the bad hacking is the type of hacking that the Chinese tend to do. So, basically the argument was, well, all states were going to conduct political and military espionage, but industrial espionage should be beyond the pale. Or if you put it—you can think of it as the way President Obama put it, you can hack into my iPhone to get secrets about what I’m discussing with my Cabinet, but you can’t hack into Apple to get the secrets about how iPhones are made to give to Huawei. There was an agreement formed in 2015, where both sides said they weren’t going to engage in industrial espionage—cyber industrial espionage. For about a year and a half, that agreement seemed to hold. And then it—and then it fell apart. The Chinese are engaged in that activity again. And as a result, the U.S. has once again started indicting Chinese hackers, trying to create—enforce that norm through indictments and naming and shaming. The U.S. probably also—although I have no evidence of it—has engaged in disrupting Chinese hackers. So we know under the Trump administrationm Cyber Command moved to a more forward-leaning posture, called defending forward or persistent engagement. We’ve heard about some of those operations against Russian or Iranian actors. John Bolton, before he left the NSC, suggested they were getting used against Chinese cyberhackers as well. So what comes next? And it’s often hard, if not impossible, to end cyber talks on a positive note, but I will try. So I think from a U.S. perspective, clearly the kind of tech pressure, not only of Huawei but on a broader range of companies, is going to continue. The Biden administration has shown no signal that it is going to roll any of that back. And it’s actually expanded it, to more companies working on quantum and other technologies. The Biden administration has worked much more actively than the Trump administration on building alliances around cybersecurity. So in particular, the tech and trade competition group with the Europeans and the quad, with Australia, India, and Japan all have discussions on cybersecurity norms. So how do you actually start imposing them? Now, where you would hope that the U.S. and China would start talking to each other, again, is where I hope the Biden administration can eventually get to. So there were some very brief discussions in the Obama administration. The Trump administration had one round of talks, but that were not particularly useful. The Chinese were very unwilling to bring people from the People’s Liberation Army to actually kind of talk about operations, and generally were in denial about that they had any cyber forces. But you want both sides really to start talking more about where the threshold for the use of force might be in a cyberattack, right? So if you think about—most of what we’ve seen, as I said, is spying. And so that is kind of the—is below the threshold for use of force or an armed attack, the thing that generally triggers kinetic escalation. But there’s no general understanding of where that threshold might be. And in particular, during a crisis, let’s stay, in the street or in the South China Sea, you want to have some kind of clarity about where that line might be. Now, I don’t think we’re ever going to get a very clear picture, because both sides are going to want to be able to kind of skate as close to it as possible, but we would certainly want to have a conversation with the Chinese about how we might signal that. Can we have hotlines to discuss those kind of thresholds? Also, we want to make sure that both sides aren’t targeting each other’s nuclear command and control systems, right, with cyberattacks, because that would make any crisis even worse. There’s some debate about whether the Chinese command and control systems are integrated with civilian systems. So things that the U.S. might go after could then perhaps spillover into the Chinese nuclear system, which would be very risky. So you want to have some talks about that. And then finally, you probably want to talk—because the Chinese open-source writing seems to suggest that they are not as concerned about escalation in cyber as we are. There’s been a lot of debate in the U.S. about if escalation is a risk in cyber. But the Chinese don’t actually seem to think it’s much of a risk. And so it would be very useful to have some discussions on that point as well. I’ll stop there, Irina, and looking forward to the questions. FASKIANOS: Thank you, Adam. That was great analysis and overview and specifics. So we’re going to go first to Babak Salimitari, an undergrad student at the University of California, Irvine. So please be sure to unmute yourself. Q: I did. Can you guys hear me? SEGAL: Yeah. Q: Thank you for doing this. I had a question on the Beijing Olympics that are coming up. Recently the told the athletes to use, like, burner phones because the health apps are for spying, or they’ve got, like, security concerns. What specific concerns do they have regarding those apps, and what do they do? SEGAL: So I think the concerns are both specific and broad. I think there was a concern that one of the apps that all of the athletes had to download had significant security vulnerabilities. So I think that was a study done by Citizens Lab at the University of Toronto. And it basically said, look, this is a very unsafe app and, as you said, allowed access to health data and other private information, and anyone could probably fairly easily hack that. So, you know, if you’re an athlete or anyone else, you don’t want that private information being exposed to or handled by others. Then there’s, I think, the broader concern is that probably anybody who connects to a network in China, that’s going to be unsafe. And so, you know, because everyone is using wi-fi in the Chinese Olympics, and those systems are going to be monitored, those—your data is not going to be safe. You know, I’m not all that concerned for most athletes. You know, there’s probably not a lot of reason why Chinese intelligence or police are interested in them. But there are probably athletes who are concerned, for example, about Xinjiang and the treatment of the Uighurs, or, you know, maybe Tibetan activists or other things, and maybe have somewhere in the back of their minds some idea about making statements or making statements when they get back to the U.S. or safer places. And for those people, definitely I would be worried about the risk of surveillance and perhaps using that data for other types of harassment. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the written question from Denis Simon, who received two upvotes. And Denis is senior advisor to the president for China affairs and professor of China business and technology. When you say “they” with respect to Chinese cyber activity, who is “they”? To what extent are there rogue groups and ultranationalists as well as criminals involved? SEGAL: Yes, Denis, will send me a nasty email if I don’t mention that Denis was my professor. We’re not going to go how many years ago, but when I was at Fletcher. So, and Denis was one of the first people I took—was the first person I took a class on Chinese technology. So, you know, and then I ended up here. So I think, “they.” So it depends what type of attacks we’re talking about. On the espionage side, cyber espionage side, what we’ve generally seen is that a lot of that was moved from the PLA to the Ministry of State Security. The most recent indictments include some actors that seem to be criminal or at least front organizations. So some technology organizations. We do know that there are, you know, individual hackers in China who will contract their services out. There were in the ’90s a lot of nationalist hacktivist groups, but those have pretty much dissipated except inside of China. So we do see a lot of nationalist trolls and others going after people inside of China, journalists and others, for offending China or other types of violations. So “they” is kind of a whole range of actors depending upon the types of attack we’re talking about. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So our next question we’re going to take from Terron Adlam, who is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Can you hear me now? FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: Hi. Good evening. Yes. So I was wondering, do you think there will be a time were we have net neutrality? Like, we have a peace agreement amongst every nation? Because I feel like, honestly, if Russia, U.S., Mexico, any other country out there that have a problem with each other, this would be, like, there’s rules of war. You don’t biohazard attack another country. Do you think—(audio break)—or otherwise? SEGAL: So I think it’s very hard to imagine a world where there’s no cyber activity. So there are discussions about can you limit the types of conflict in cyberspace, though the U.N. primarily. And they have started to define some of the rules of the road that are very similar to other international law applying to armed conflict. So the U.S.’ position is essentially that international law applies in cyberspace, and things like the International Humanitarian Law apply in cyberspace. And you can have things like, you know, neutrality, and proportionality, and distinction. But they’re hard to think about in cyber, but we can—that’s what we should be doing. The Chinese and Russians have often argued we need a different type of treaty, that cyber is different. But given how valuable it seems, at least on the espionage side so far, I don’t think it’s very likely we’ll ever get an agreement where we have no activity in cyberspace. We might get something that says, you know, certain types of targets should be off limits. You shouldn’t go after a hospital, or you shouldn’t go after, you know, health data, things like that. But not a, you know, world peace kind of treaty. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to take the next question from David Woodside at Fordham University. Three upvotes. What role does North Korea play in U.S.-China cyber discussions? Can you China act outside of cybersecurity agreements through its North Korean ally? SEGAL: Yeah. I think, you know, like many things with North Korea, the Chinese probably have a great deal of visibility. They have a few levers that they really don’t like using, but not a huge number. So, in particular, if you remember when North Korea hacked Sony and because of the—you know, the movie from Seth Rogan and Franco about the North Korean leader—those hackers seemed to be located in northern China, in Shenyang. So there was some sense that the Chinese probably could have, you know, controlled that. Since then, we have seen a migration of North Korean operators out of kind of north China. They now operate out of India, and Malaysia, and some other places. Also, Russia helped build another cable to North Korea, so the North Koreans are not as dependent on China. I think it’s very unlikely that the Chinese would kind of use North Korean proxies. I think the trust is very low of North Korean operators that they would, you know, have China’s interest in mind or that they might not overstep, that they would bring a great deal of kind of blowback to China there. So there’s been very little kind of—I would say kind of looking the other way earlier in much of North Korea’s actions. These days, I think probably less. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Joan Kaufman at Harvard University. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Yes. Thank you very much. I’m also with the Schwarzman Scholars program, the academic director. And I wanted to ask a follow up on your point about internet sovereignty. And, you know, the larger global governance bodies and mechanisms for, you know, internet governance and, you know, China’s role therein. I know China’s taken a much more muscular stance on, you know, the sovereignty issue, and justification for firewalls. So there’s a lot—there are a lot of countries that are sort of in the me too, you know, movement behind that, who do want to restrict the internet. So I just—could you give us a little update on what’s the status of that, versus, like, the Net Mundial people, who call for the total openness of the internet. And where is China in that space? How much influence does it have? And is it really—do you think the rules of the road are going to change in any significant way as a result of that? SEGAL: Yeah. So, you know, I think in some ways actually China has been less vocal about the phrase “cyber sovereignty.” The Wuzhen Internet Conference, which is kind of—China developed as a separate platform for promoting its ideas—you don’t see the phrase used as much, although the Chinese are still interjecting it, as we mentioned, in lots of kind of U.N. documents and other ideas. I think partly they don’t—they don’t promote as much because they don’t have to, because the idea of cyber sovereignty is now pretty widely accepted. And I don’t think it’s because of Chinese actions. I think it’s because there is widespread distrust and dissatisfaction with the internet that, you know, spans all types of regime types, right? Just look at any country, including the United States. We’re having a debate about how free and open the internet should be, what role firms should play in content moderation, should the government be allowed to take things down? You know, we’ve seen lots of countries passing fake news or online content moderation laws. There’s a lot of concern about data localization that countries are doing because of purported economic or law enforcement reasons. So I don’t think the Chinese really have to push cyber sovereignty that much because it is very attractive to lots of countries for specific reasons. Now, there is still, I think, a lot of engagement China has with other countries around what we would call cyber sovereignty, because China—countries know that, you know, China both has the experience with it, and will help pay for it. So certainly around the Belt and Road Initiative and other developing economies we do see, you know, the Chinese doing training of people on media management, or online management. There was this story just last week about, you know, Cambodia’s internet looking more like the Chinese internet. We know Vietnam copied part of their cybersecurity law from the Chinese law. A story maybe two years ago about Huawei helping in Zambia and Zimbabwe, if I remember correctly, in surveilling opposition members. So I think China, you know, still remains a big force around it. I think the idea still is cyber sovereignty. I just don’t think we see the phrase anymore. And I think there’s lots of demand pulls. Not China pushing it on other countries, I think lots of countries have decided, yeah, of course we’re going to regulate the internet. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question, from Ken Mayers, senior adjunct professor of history and political science at St. Francis College. Following up on Denis Simon’s question, to what extent to Chinese state actors and U.S. state actors share concerns about asymmetric threats to cybersecurity? Is there common ground for discussion? And I’m going to—actually, I’ll stop there, because— SEGAL: All right. So I’m going to interpret asymmetric threats meaning kind of cyber threats from other actors, meaning kind of nonstate or terrorist actors, or criminal actors. So I think there could be a shared interest. It’s very hard to operationalize. Probably about six or seven years ago I wrote a piece with a Chinese scholar that said, yes, of course we have a shared interest in preventing the proliferation of these weapons to terrorist actors and nonstate actors. But then it was very hard to figure out how you would share that information without exposing yourself to other types of attacks, or perhaps empowering your potential adversary. On cyber—for example, on ransomware, you would actually expect there could be some shared interest, since the Chinese have been victims of a fair number of Russian ransomware attacks. But given the close relationship between Putin and Xi these days, it’s hard to imagine that the U.S. and China are going to gang up on Russia on ransomware. So, again, I think there could be, it’s just very hard to operationalize. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So just to follow on from Skyler Duggan, who is an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. Likewise, to these questions, how do we differentiate individual criminal groups from the state? And how can we be sure this isn’t China just trying to abdicate—or, one party, he doesn’t specify, trying to abdicate the responsibility? SEGAL: Yeah, I think—because there’s—one of the challenges faced by the U.S. and other liberal democracies is that we tend to primarily keep a fairly tight legal control over the cyber operations. They tend to be, you know, intelligence operations or military operations. So Title 10 or Title 50. There’s kind of a whole set of legal norms around it. The U.S. does not rely on proxy actors. And other, you know, liberal democracies tend to don’t. And U.S. adversaries in this space tend to do so. We know Iran does. We know Russia does. We know China does, although less than the others. Now according to this discussion group that I mentioned before at the U.N., the group of—what’s called the group of government experts, one of the norms that all the actors agreed upon was the norm of state responsibility, which is a common one in international law, that you are responsible for whatever happens in your territory. So using proxies should not, you know, be able to give you an out. You shouldn’t be able to say, well, it’s happening from our territory, we just—you know, we don’t know who they are and we can’t control them. But, you know, in operation that norm is being fairly widely ignored. Now, the other problem, of course, is the—is how do you actually decide who the actor is, the attribution problem, right? So here, you know, a lot of people are basically saying, well, we have to rely on the U.S. or the U.K. or others to say, well, you know, we say it’s these actors, and how do we know—how do we know for sure? Now, attribution is not as hard as we once thought it was going to be. When I first, you know, started doing the research for the book that Irina mentioned, attribution was considered, you know, a pretty big challenge. But now, you know, there’s a fairly high expectation that the U.S. will be able to eventually identify who’s behind an attack. Now, it may take some time. And we may not be able to completely identify who ordered the attack, which is, you know, as you mentioned, the problem with the proxies. But it’s not—it’s also not completely reliant on digital clearances. It’s not just the code or the language of the keyboard. All those things can be manipulated, don’t necessarily give you proof. Lots of time the U.S. is pulling in other intelligence—like, human intelligence, signals intelligence, other types of gathering. So, you know, part of it is how much do we believe the attribution, and then how much of it is—you know, what can you do with it afterwards? And, you know, I don’t think the proxy problem is going to go away. FASKIANOS: Great. So I’m going next to Tim Hofmockel’s question. It’s gotten seven upvotes. He’s a graduate student at Georgetown University. To flip Denis Simon’s question: Who should the “we” be? To what extent should the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense cooperate on offensive cyber operations? And how would we signal our intentions in a crisis given the overlap in authorities between the intelligence community and DOD? SEGAL: Yeah. I mean, so right now NSA and Cyber Command are dual hatted, meaning that one person is in charge of both of them, General Nakasone. So to some extent that could theoretically help deconflict between kind of intelligence gathering, offensive operations, and kind of signaling to the Chinese. But it’s unclear. It’s very—signaling in cyber so far seems to be kind of developing and unknown. That seems to be one of the big theories between the U.S. taking these more kinds of operations and, in fact, kind of bringing the fight to the Chinese is a very kind of sociological understanding of deterrence is that over time both sides will kind of understand where those red lines are by engaging and seeing where they’re acting. You know, others have talked about could you create some kind of watermark on the actual attack or vulnerability, so that the—you know, you might discover some type of malware in your system and there’d be like a little, you know, NFT, maybe, of sorts, that says, you know, the U.S. government was here. We’re warning you not to do this thing. You know, a lot of these have, you know, kind of technical problems. But the question of signaling I think is really hard, and that’s part of the reason why, you know, I think these discussions are so important, that at least we have a sense that we’re talking about the same types of things, and the same general set of tools. But I think probably through cyber signaling is going to be really hard. It’s going to be mostly other types of signaling. FASKIANOS: Next question from Maryalice Mazzara. She’s the director of educational programs at the State University of New York’s Office of Global Affairs. How can people who are working with China and have a very positive relationship with China balance the issues of cybersecurity with the work we are doing? Are there some positive approaches we can take with our Chinese colleagues in addressing these concerns? SEGAL: Good question, Ali. How are you? So I guess it’s very—so I do think there are forward-looking things that we can talk about. You know, several of the questions have asked, are there shared interests here? And I do think there are shared interests. You know, you we mentioned the proliferation one. We mentioned the nonstate actors. You know, there is a lot of language in the most recent statement from the Chinese government about—you know, that the internet should be democratic and open. I don’t think they mean it in the same way that we do, but we can, I think, certainly use that language to have discussions about it and hope push to those sides. But I think it is hard because it is—you know, partly because government choices, right? The U.S. government chooses to attribute lots of attacks to China and be very public about it. Chinese for the most part don’t attribute attacks, and don’t—they talk about the U.S. as being the biggest threat in cyberspace, and call the U.S. The Matrix and the most, you know, damaging force in cyberspace. But for the most part, don’t call out specific actors. So they kind of view it—the Chinese side is often in a kind of defensive crouch, basically saying, you know, who are you to judge us, and you guys are hypocrites, and everything else. So I think there are lots of reasons that make it hard. I think probably the way to do it is to try to look forward to these shared interests and this idea that we all benefitted immensely from a global internet. We now have different views of how open that internet should be. But I think we still want to maintain—the most remarkable thing about it is that we can, you know, still communicate with people around the world, we can still learn from people around the world, we can still draw information, most information, from around the world. And we want to, you know, keep that, which is a—which is—you know, not to use a Chinese phrase—but is a win-win for everybody. FASKIANOS: Great. I see a raised hand from Austin Oaks. And I can’t get my roster up fast enough, so, Austin, if you can unmute and identify yourself. Q: So I’m Austin Oaks. And I come from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. And I used to live in Guangdong province in China. And I used to go visit Hong Kong and Macau, more Hong Kong, very often. And Hong Kong has this very free internet, which China doesn’t particularly like. Macau tends to be more submissive to Beijing rather than Hong Kong does. But Chinese government has kind of started to put in people in the Hong Kong government to kind of sway the government into Beijing’s orbit more. So then how—so what is China doing in the cyberspace world for both of its separate administrative regions? Because one is a lot easier to control than the other. SEGAL: Yeah. So I think the idea of Hong Kong’s internet being independent and free is—it’s pretty much ending, right? So the national security law covers Hong Kong and allows the government to increasingly censor and filter and arrest people for what they are posting. We saw pressure on U.S. companies to handover data of some users. A lot of the U.S. companies say they’re going to move their headquarters or personnel out of Hong Kong because of those concerns. So, you know, it certainly is more open than the mainland is, but I think long-term trends are clearly pretty negative for Hong Kong. I expect Macau is the same direction, but as you mentioned, you know, the politics of Macau is just so much different from Hong Kong that it’s less of a concern for the Chinese. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Robert Harrison, a law student at Washburn University School of Law. My understanding is that there have been significant thefts of American small and medium-size business intellectual property by Chinese-based actors. This theft/transfer of knowledge may reduce the competitive edge from the original property holder. Are there any current efforts to curb IP thefts? Any ongoing analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative to evaluate the use of IP acquired by theft? SEGAL: Yeah. So, you know, as I mentioned, the U.S. tried to reach this agreement with China on the IP theft challenge. China held to it for about a year, and then essentially kind of went back to it. It’s been very hard to quantify the actual impact of what the theft has been. You know, there are numbers thrown around, a certain percent of GDP, or 250 billion (dollars) a year. There is what’s called the IP Commission, which is run out of the National Bureau of Asia Research that has been updating its report. But it’s very hard because, you know, a lot of the knowledge and data that’s stolen is tacit knowledge. Or, you know, is actual blueprints or IP, but they don’t have the tactic knowledge. So you can have the blueprints, but it’s then hard to turn from that to an actual product. And it’s hard in the civilian space to kind of track lots of products that seem stolen from U.S. products, as opposed to—on the military side you can look at, oh, here’s the Chinese stealth jet. It looks a lot like the U.S. stealth jet. Now, this could be physics. It could be intellectual property theft. But it’s harder on the commercial side to kind of put a number on it and see what the impact is. Although clearly, it’s had an impact. We do know that Chinese operators, you know, go after other targets other than the U.S., right? So they certainly go—are active in Europe. We’ve seen them in Southeast Asia. Most of that is probably political espionage, not as much industrial espionage. Although, there has been—has been some. I don’t know of any specific cases where we can point to anything along the Belt and Road Initiative that, you know, seems in and of itself the outcome of IP theft. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take a written question from Caroline Wagner, who is the Milton and Roslyn Wolf chair in international affairs at Ohio State University. Chinese actors seem to have incredibly pervasive links to track online discussions critical of China. Are these mostly bots, or are there human actors behind them? SEGAL: So I’m going to interpret that to me for the net outside of China. So, yes. I think what we’re learning is there’s several things going on. Part of it is bots. So they have, you know, a number of bots that are triggered by certain phrases. Some of it is human, but increasingly probably a lot of it is machine learning. So there was a story maybe last month in the Post, if I remember it correctly, about, you know, Chinese analytical software data companies offering their services to local Ministry of State Security to basically kind of scrape and monitor U.S. platforms. And that is primarily going to be done through, you know, machine learning, and maybe a little human operations as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. And this is a bit of a follow-on, and then I’ll go to more. William Weeks, who is an undergraduate at Arizona State University asks: What role does unsupervised machine learning play in China’s cyberspace strategy? SEGAL: Yeah, it’s a good question. I don’t have a lot of details. You know, like everybody else there, they are going to start using it on defense. It is a big push on what’s called military-civil fusion. You know, we know that they are trying to pull in from the private sector on AI, both for the defense and the offense side. But right now, all I can give you is kind of general speculation about how actors think about offense and defense with ML and AI. Not a lot of specifics from the Chinese here. FASKIANOS: Thank you. OK, Morton Holbrook, who’s at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Q: Yes. Following up on your comment about Hong Kong, about U.S. companies reconsidering their presence due to internet controls, what about U.S. companies in China and Beijing and Shanghai? Do you see a similar trend there regarding internet controls, or regarding IPR theft? SEGAL: I think, you know, almost all firms that have been in China, this has been a constant issue for them. So it’s not particularly new. I think almost all of them have, you know, made decisions both about how to protect their intellectual property theft—intellectual property from theft, and how to maintain connections to the outside, to make them harder. You know, VPNs were fairly widely used. Now they’re more tightly regulated. We know that the Chinese actually can attack VPNs. So it think, you know, those issues have been constant irritants. I think, you know, COVID and the lack of travel, the worry about getting kind of caught up in nationalist backlashes online to, you know, Xinjiang issues or if you refer to Taiwan incorrectly, those are probably higher concerns right now than these kind of more constant concerns about cyber and IP. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Anson Wang, who’s an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. We have three upvotes. Is China considered the major threat to the U.S. hegemony because China is actively trying to replace the U.S. as the new global hegemon? Or simply because China is on a trajectory to get there, without or without their active intention in involving other countries’ internal politics, the same way that the U.S. does? SEGAL: Yeah. So I think this is a—you know, a larger question about what China wants in the world. And do we—you know, we do we think it has a plan or ideology of replacing the U.S.? And does it want—or, would it be happen even with regional dominance? Does it just want to block U.S. interest and others? It’s a big debate. You know, lots of people have contrasting views on where they think China is coming. I’ll just use the cyber example. And I think here, you know, the Chinese started with wanting to block the U.S., and prevent the U.S. from criticizing China, and protect itself. I don’t think it had any desire to reshape the global internet. But I think that’s changed. I think under Xi Jinping they really want to change the definitions of what people think the state should do in this space. I think they want to change the shape of the internet. I don’t think they want to spread their model to every country, but if you want to build their model they’re certainly welcome to help you. And they don’t mind pushing, perhaps highlighting, in some cases exploiting the weaknesses they see in the U.S. as well. FASKIANOS: OK. Thank you. I’m going to go to Helen You, who’s a student at NYU. It appears that governments are reluctant to restrict their cyber capabilities because they fundamentally do not want to limit their own freedom to launch cyberattacks. As a result, countries fail to follow voluntary norms on what is permissible in cyberspace. To what extent are industry standards influencing international cybersecurity norms? And what incentives would need to be in place to move these conversations forward? SEGAL: Yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, I think that’s one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a lot of progress, is because states don’t have a lot of reason to stop doing it. The costs are low, and the benefits seem to be high. Now, I understand your question in two separate ways. One, there is a kind of private attempt to push these norms, and basically arguing that states are going too slow. Part of that was promoted by Microsoft, the company, right? So it promoted the idea of what they were calling the Digital Geneva Convention, and then they have been involved in what’s now known as the Paris Accords that define some of these rules, that the U.S. just signed onto, and some other states have signed onto. But again, the norms are pretty vague, and haven’t seemed to have that much effect. There’s a thing called the cybersecurity—Global Cybersecurity Stability Commission that the Dutch government helped fund but was mainly through think tanks and academics. It also has a list of norms. So there is a kind of norm entrepreneurship going on. And those ideas are slowly kind of bubbling out there. But you need to see changes in the state to get there. That’s when we know that norms matter. And that we really haven’t seen. On the—there is a lot of work, of course, going on, on the standards of cybersecurity, and what companies should do, how they should be defined. And that happens both domestically and internationally. And of course, the companies are very involved in that. And, you know, that is much further, right? Because that has to do about regulation inside of markets, although there’s still, you know, a fair amount of difference between the U.S. and EU and other close economies about how those standards should be defined, who should do the defining, how they should be implemented. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take group two questions from Dr. Mursel Dogrul of the Turkish National Defense University. In a most recent article we focused on the blockchain literature expansion of superpowers. In terms of publications and citations, China clearly outperformed the United States and Russia. Do you believe the technological advancement will have an impact on the cybersecurity race? And the Michael Trevett—I don’t have an affiliation—wanted you to speak a little bit more about the cyber triangle with Russia. How are China and Russia coordinating and cooperating? SEGAL: Yeah. So the first question, you know, clearly, as I have briefly mentioned in my opening comments, that the Chinese are pushing very hard on the technologies they think are going to be critical to the—to the future competition in this space—blockchain, quantum, AI. The Chinese have made a lot of advances on quantum communication and quantum key distribution. Probably behind the U.S. on quantum computing, but it’s hard to say for sure. And blockchain is a space the Chinese have developed some usages and are rolling some test cases out on the security side and the internet platforming side. On the China-Russia question, so closer cooperation. Most of it has been around cyber sovereignty, and the ideas of kind of global governance of cyberspace. The Chinese were, you know, pretty helpful at the beginning stages, when Russia started using more technological means to censoring and controlling the Russian internet. So helping kind of build some of the—or, export some of the technologies used in the China great firewall, that the Russians could help develop. Russia is pretty much all-in with Huawei on 5G. And so a lot of cooperation there. Although, the Russians are also worried about, you know, Chinese espionage from Russian technology and other secrets. They did sign a nonaggression cyber pact between the two, but both sides continue to hack each other and steal each other’s secrets. And have not seen any evidence of cooperation on the operations side, on intelligence. with them doing more and more military exercises together, I would suspect we would perhaps start seeing some suggestion that they were coordinating on the military side in cyber. But the last time I looked, I didn’t really see any—I did not see any analysis of that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question from Jeffrey Rosensweig, who is the director of the program for business and public policy at Emory University. Q: Adam, I wonder if you could fit India in here anywhere you would like to? Because it think it’ll be the other great economy of the future. SEGAL: Yeah. So India’s a—you know, a really interesting actor in this space, right? So, you know, India basically think that it has two major cyber threats—Pakistan, and China being the other. China, you know, was reportedly behind some of the blackouts in Mumbai after the border clash. I am somewhat skeptical about reporting, but it’s certainly a possibility, and there’s no reason to doubt the Chinese have been mapping critical infrastructure there. India pushed back on TikTok and ByteDance. You know, also concerns about data control and other things. There is a long history of kind of going back and forth on Huawei. The intelligence agency has not really wanted to use, but others wanting to help, you know, bridge the digital divide and build out pretty quickly. India right now is talking about its own type of 5G. But from a U.S. perspective, you know, I think the most important thing—and this is often how India comes up—is that, you know, we want India to be an amplifier, promoter of a lot of these norms on cyber governance, because it is a, you know, developing, multiethnic, multiparty democracy. And so we want it just not to be the U.S.’ voice. Now, India’s a pretty complicated, difficult messenger for those things these days, right? India leads the world in internet shutdowns, and we’ve seen a lot of harassment of opposition leaders and other people who are opposed to Modi. So it’s not going to be easy. But I think the U.S. for a long time has hoped that we could forge a greater understanding on the cyber side with India. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next question from Michael O’Hara, who is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. And I’m going to shorten it. He asks about China’s fourteenth five-year plan, from 2021 to 2025. It includes a section titled “Accelerate digitalization-based development and construct a digital China.” Do you see their five-year plan as a useful way for thinking about Chinese future in cyberspace? SEGAL: Yes. So we’re on the same page, the digital plan came out two or three weeks ago. It was just translated. Yeah, I mean, the plan is useful. Like, all Chinese plans are useful in the sense that it certainly gives us clear thinking about the direction that China wants to go, and the importance it puts on a topic. You know, the implementation and bureaucratic obstacles and all those other things are going to play a role. But as I mentioned, I think, you know, the Chinese economy is becoming increasingly digitalized. And in particular, they want to digitize, you know, more and more of the manufacturing sector and transportation, mining, other sectors that are traditionally not, you know, thought of as being digital, but the Chinese really want to move into that space. Now, from a cybersecurity perspective, that, you know, raises a whole range of new vulnerabilities and security issues. And so I think that’s going to be very high on their thinking. And just today I tweeted a story that they held a meeting on thinking about cybersecurity in the metaverse. So, you know, they’re looking forward, and cybersecurity is going to be a very high concern of people. FASKIANOS: Well, we couldn’t have the Naval Academy without the U.S. Air Force Academy. So, Chris Miller, you wrote your question, but you’ve also raised your hand. So I’m going to ask to have you articulate it yourself. Q: Well, actually, I changed questions, Irina. Adam, thank you. FASKIANOS: Oh, OK. (Laughs.) But still, the Air Force Academy. Q: So two quick questions. I’ll combine them. One is: I’m curious how you see the new cyber director—national cyber director’s role changing this dynamic, if it at all, or changing the parts of it on our side of the Pacific that we care about. And second of all, curious how you see China viewing the Taiwanese infrastructure that they probably desire, whether or not they eventually take it by force or by persuasion. SEGAL: Yeah. So I don’t think the NCD changes the dynamic very much. You know, I think there’s lots of—you know, everyone is watching to see how the NCD and the National Security Council, and CISA, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, work out the responsibilities among the three of them, which will have an impact, you know, of making us more secure. And, you know, Chris Inglis, the head of the NCD has given lots of talks about how they’re going to manage and work together. And I think we’re beginning to see some signs of that. But I think that’s probably the most direct impact it’ll have on the dynamic. Your second question, you know, I think primarily is about, you know, Taiwan Semiconductor. And, you know, do the Chinese eventually decide, well, chips are so important, and the U.S. is working so hard to cut us off, that, you know, for all the other reasons that we might want to see Taiwan, you know, that one is going to get moved up? You know, I think it’s a possibility. I think it’s a very low possibility. I do think we don’t know what the red lines are on the tech war, right? You know, there’s been talk about cutting off SMIC, the Shanghai manufacturer of integrated circuits, are also a very important company to the Chinese. Would that push the Chinese to do more aggressive or assertive things in this space? You know, what is it that we do in that space that eventually pulls them out? But I think it’s very hard—(audio break)—that they could capture TSMC in a shape that would be useful. Am I breaking up? FASKIANOS: Just a little bit, but it was fine. We have you now. SEGAL: Yeah. That you could capture TSMC in a shape that would be useful, right? I mean, there was that piece, I think, that was written by an Army person, maybe in Parameters, that, you know, the U.S. and Taiwan’s plan should be basically just to—you know, to sabotage TSMC in case there’s any invasion, and make that clear that that’s what it’s going to do. But even without that risk, you’re still dealing—you know, any damage and then, flight of people outside of Taiwan, because the Taiwanese engineers are really important. So it would be very high risk, I think, that they could capture it and then use it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Well, I am sorry that we couldn’t get to all the questions, but this has been a great conversation. Adam Segal, thank you very much for being with us. You know, you’re such a great resource. I’m going to task you after this, there was a question from Andrew Moore at the University of Kansas about other resources and books that you would suggest to learn more about China and cybersecurity. So I’m going to get—come to you after this for a few suggestions, which we will send out to the group along with the link to this video and the transcript. So, Andrew, we will get back to you and share with everybody else. And so, again, you can follow Dr. Segal on Twitter at @adschina. Is that correct, Adam? SEGAL: That’s right. FASKIANOS: OK. And also sign up for—to receive blog alerts for Net Politics you can go to CFR.org for that. Our next webinar will be on Wednesday, February 9, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And we’re excited to have Patrick Dennis Duddy, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Duke, to talk about democracy in Latin America. So thank you for being with us. You can follow us on Twitter at @CFR_Academic. Visit CFR.org, foreignaffairs.com and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for new research and analysis on other global issues. And again, Adam, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it. SEGAL: My pleasure. FASKIANOS: Take care. FASKIANOS: Welcome to the first session of the Winter/Spring 2022 CFR Academic Webinar Series. I’m Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach here at CFR. Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org/academic. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. We are delighted to have Adam Segal with us to discuss cyberspace and U.S.-China relations. Adam Segal is CFR’s Ira A. Lipman chair in emerging technologies and national security and director of the Council’s Digital and Cyberspace Policy program. Previously, he served as an arms control analyst for the China Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has been a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, MIT’s Center for International Studies, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, and Tsinghua University in Beijing. And he’s taught courses at Vassar College and Columbia University. Dr. Segal currently writes for the CFR blog, Net Politics—you should all sign up for those alerts, if you haven’t already. And he is the author several books, including his latest, The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age. So, Adam, thanks very much for being with us. We can begin with a very broad brush at cyberspace, the role cyberspace plays in U.S.-China relations, and have you make a few comments on the salient points. And then we’ll open it up to the group for questions. SEGAL: Great. Irina, thanks very much. And thanks, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. I’m looking forward to the questions and the discussion. So broadly, I’m going to argue that the U.S. and China have the most far-reaching competition in cyberspace of any countries. And that competition goes all the way from the chip level to the rules of the road. So global governance all the way down the to the chips that we have in all of our phones. Coincidentally, and nicely timed, last week the Washington Post did a survey of their network of cyber experts about who was the greater threat to the United States, China or Russia. And it was actually almost exactly evenly split—forty to thirty-nine. But I, not surprisingly, fell into the China school. And my thinking is caught very nicely by a quote from Rob Joyce, who’s a director at the National Security Agency, that Russia is like a hurricane while China is like climate change. So Russia causes sudden, kind of unpredictable damage. But China represents a long-term strategic threat. When we think about cyberspace, I think it’s good to think about why it matters to both sides. And on the Chinese side, I think there are four primary concerns. The first is domestic stability, right? So China is worried that the outside internet will influence domestic stability and regime legitimacy. And so that’s why it’s built an incredibly sophisticated system for controlling information inside of China that relies both on technology, and intermediate liability, and other types of regulation. China is worried about technological dependence on other players, in particular the U.S., for semiconductors, network equipment, and other technologies. And they see cybersecurity as a way of reducing that technology. China has legitimate cybersecurity concerns like every other country. They’re worried about attacks on their networks. And the Snowden revelations from the—Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor—show that the U.S. has significant cyber capabilities, and it has attacked and exploited vulnerabilities inside of China. And while the Chinese might have used to think that they were less vulnerable to cyberattacks given the shape of the Chinese network in the past, I think that probably changed around 2014-2015, especially as the Chinese economy has become increasingly dependent on ecommerce and digital technology. It’s now—GDP is about a third dependent on digital technology. So they’re worried about the same types of attacks the United States is worried about. And then, fourth and finally, China does not want the United States to be able to kind of define the rules of the road globally on cyber, create containing alliances around digital or cyber issues, and wants to constrain the ability of the U.S. to freely maneuver in cyberspace. Those are China’s views. The U.S. has stated that it’s working for a free, open, global, and interoperable internet, or an interoperable cyberspace. But when it looks at China, it has a number of specific concerns. The first is Chinese cyber operations, in particular Chinese espionage, and in particular from that Chinese industrial espionage, right? So the Chinese are known for being the most prolific operators, stealing intellectual property. But they’re also hacking into political networks, going after think tanks, hacking activists—Uighur activists, Tibetan activists, Taiwanese independence activists. We know they’re entering into networks to prepare the battlefield, right, so to map critical infrastructure in case there is a kinetic conflict with the United States—perhaps in the South China Sea or over the Taiwan Strait—and they want to be able to deter the U.S., or perhaps cause destructive attacks on the U.S. homeland, or U.S. bases in South Korea, or Japan. The U.S. is also extremely concerned about the global expansion of Chinese tech firms and Chinese platforms, for the collection of data, right? The U.S. exploited the globalization of U.S. tech firms. Again, that was something that we learned from the Snowden documents, that the U.S. both had legal and extralegal measures to be able to get data from users all around the world because of their knowledge of and relationship to U.S. tech firms. And there’s no reason to believe that the Chinese will not do the same. Now, we hear a lot about, you know, Huawei and the national intelligence law in China that seems to require Chinese companies to turnover data. But it would be very hard to believe that the Chinese would not want to do the same thing that the U.S. has done, which is exploit these tech platforms. And then finally, there is increasingly a framing of this debate as one over values or ideology, right? That democracies use cybertechnologies or digital technologies in a different way than China does. China’s promoting digital authoritarianism, that has to do about control of information as well as surveillance. And the U.S. has really pushed back and said, you know, democracies have to describe how we’re going to use these technologies. Now, the competition has played itself out both domestically and internationally. The Chinese have been incredibly active domestically. Xi Jinping declared that cybersecurity was national security. He took control of a small leadership group that became a separate commission. The Cyberspace Administration of China was established and given lots of powers on regulating cybersecurity. We had a creation of three important laws—the cybersecurity law, the data security law, and the private—personal information protection law. We see China pushing very hard on specific technologies they think are going to be important for this competition, especially AI and quantum. And we see China pushing diplomatically, partly through the idea of what’s called cyber-sovereignty. So not the idea that internet is free and open and should be somewhat free from government regulation, but instead that cyberspace, like every other space, is going to be regulated, and that states should be free to do it as they see fit, as fits their own political and social characteristics, and they should not be criticized by other states. They promoted this view through U.N. organizations in particular. And they’ve been working with the Russians to have a kind of treaty on information and communication technologies that would include not only cybersecurity, but their concerns about content and the free flow of information. The U.S. right now is essentially continuing a policy that was started under the Trump administration. So part of that is to try and stop the flow of technology to Chinese firms, and in particular to handicap and damage Huawei, the Chinese telecom supplier, to put pressure on friends to not use Huawei. But the most important thing it did was put Huawei on an entity list, which cut it off from semiconductors, most importantly from Taiwan Semiconductor, which has really hurt the Huawei of products. The U.S. tried to come to an agreement about—with China about what types of espionage are considered legitimate. And not surprisingly, the U.S. said there was good hacking and back hacking. And the good hacking is the type of hacking that the U.S. tends to do, and the bad hacking is the type of hacking that the Chinese tend to do. So, basically the argument was, well, all states were going to conduct political and military espionage, but industrial espionage should be beyond the pale. Or if you put it—you can think of it as the way President Obama put it, you can hack into my iPhone to get secrets about what I’m discussing with my Cabinet, but you can’t hack into Apple to get the secrets about how iPhones are made to give to Huawei. There was an agreement formed in 2015, where both sides said they weren’t going to engage in industrial espionage—cyber industrial espionage. For about a year and a half, that agreement seemed to hold. And then it—and then it fell apart. The Chinese are engaged in that activity again. And as a result, the U.S. has once again started indicting Chinese hackers, trying to create—enforce that norm through indictments and naming and shaming. The U.S. probably also—although I have no evidence of it—has engaged in disrupting Chinese hackers. So we know under the Trump administrationm Cyber Command moved to a more forward-leaning posture, called defending forward or persistent engagement. We’ve heard about some of those operations against Russian or Iranian actors. John Bolton, before he left the NSC, suggested they were getting used against Chinese cyberhackers as well. So what comes next? And it’s often hard, if not impossible, to end cyber talks on a positive note, but I will try. So I think from a U.S. perspective, clearly the kind of tech pressure, not only of Huawei but on a broader range of companies, is going to continue. The Biden administration has shown no signal that it is going to roll any of that back. And it’s actually expanded it, to more companies working on quantum and other technologies. The Biden administration has worked much more actively than the Trump administration on building alliances around cybersecurity. So in particular, the tech and trade competition group with the Europeans and the quad, with Australia, India, and Japan all have discussions on cybersecurity norms. So how do you actually start imposing them? Now, where you would hope that the U.S. and China would start talking to each other, again, is where I hope the Biden administration can eventually get to. So there were some very brief discussions in the Obama administration. The Trump administration had one round of talks, but that were not particularly useful. The Chinese were very unwilling to bring people from the People’s Liberation Army to actually kind of talk about operations, and generally were in denial about that they had any cyber forces. But you want both sides really to start talking more about where the threshold for the use of force might be in a cyberattack, right? So if you think about—most of what we’ve seen, as I said, is spying. And so that is kind of the—is below the threshold for use of force or an armed attack, the thing that generally triggers kinetic escalation. But there’s no general understanding of where that threshold might be. And in particular, during a crisis, let’s stay, in the street or in the South China Sea, you want to have some kind of clarity about where that line might be. Now, I don’t think we’re ever going to get a very clear picture, because both sides are going to want to be able to kind of skate as close to it as possible, but we would certainly want to have a conversation with the Chinese about how we might signal that. Can we have hotlines to discuss those kind of thresholds? Also, we want to make sure that both sides aren’t targeting each other’s nuclear command and control systems, right, with cyberattacks, because that would make any crisis even worse. There’s some debate about whether the Chinese command and control systems are integrated with civilian systems. So things that the U.S. might go after could then perhaps spillover into the Chinese nuclear system, which would be very risky. So you want to have some talks about that. And then finally, you probably want to talk—because the Chinese open-source writing seems to suggest that they are not as concerned about escalation in cyber as we are. There’s been a lot of debate in the U.S. about if escalation is a risk in cyber. But the Chinese don’t actually seem to think it’s much of a risk. And so it would be very useful to have some discussions on that point as well. I’ll stop there, Irina, and looking forward to the questions. FASKIANOS: Thank you, Adam. That was great analysis and overview and specifics. So we’re going to go first to Babak Salimitari, an undergrad student at the University of California, Irvine. So please be sure to unmute yourself. Q: I did. Can you guys hear me? SEGAL: Yeah. Q: Thank you for doing this. I had a question on the Beijing Olympics that are coming up. Recently the told the athletes to use, like, burner phones because the health apps are for spying, or they’ve got, like, security concerns. What specific concerns do they have regarding those apps, and what do they do? SEGAL: So I think the concerns are both specific and broad. I think there was a concern that one of the apps that all of the athletes had to download had significant security vulnerabilities. So I think that was a study done by Citizens Lab at the University of Toronto. And it basically said, look, this is a very unsafe app and, as you said, allowed access to health data and other private information, and anyone could probably fairly easily hack that. So, you know, if you’re an athlete or anyone else, you don’t want that private information being exposed to or handled by others. Then there’s, I think, the broader concern is that probably anybody who connects to a network in China, that’s going to be unsafe. And so, you know, because everyone is using wi-fi in the Chinese Olympics, and those systems are going to be monitored, those—your data is not going to be safe. You know, I’m not all that concerned for most athletes. You know, there’s probably not a lot of reason why Chinese intelligence or police are interested in them. But there are probably athletes who are concerned, for example, about Xinjiang and the treatment of the Uighurs, or, you know, maybe Tibetan activists or other things, and maybe have somewhere in the back of their minds some idea about making statements or making statements when they get back to the U.S. or safer places. And for those people, definitely I would be worried about the risk of surveillance and perhaps using that data for other types of harassment. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take the written question from Denis Simon, who received two upvotes. And Denis is senior advisor to the president for China affairs and professor of China business and technology. When you say “they” with respect to Chinese cyber activity, who is “they”? To what extent are there rogue groups and ultranationalists as well as criminals involved? SEGAL: Yes, Denis, will send me a nasty email if I don’t mention that Denis was my professor. We’re not going to go how many years ago, but when I was at Fletcher. So, and Denis was one of the first people I took—was the first person I took a class on Chinese technology. So, you know, and then I ended up here. So I think, “they.” So it depends what type of attacks we’re talking about. On the espionage side, cyber espionage side, what we’ve generally seen is that a lot of that was moved from the PLA to the Ministry of State Security. The most recent indictments include some actors that seem to be criminal or at least front organizations. So some technology organizations. We do know that there are, you know, individual hackers in China who will contract their services out. There were in the ’90s a lot of nationalist hacktivist groups, but those have pretty much dissipated except inside of China. So we do see a lot of nationalist trolls and others going after people inside of China, journalists and others, for offending China or other types of violations. So “they” is kind of a whole range of actors depending upon the types of attack we’re talking about. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So our next question we’re going to take from Terron Adlam, who is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Can you hear me now? FASKIANOS: Yes. Q: Hi. Good evening. Yes. So I was wondering, do you think there will be a time were we have net neutrality? Like, we have a peace agreement amongst every nation? Because I feel like, honestly, if Russia, U.S., Mexico, any other country out there that have a problem with each other, this would be, like, there’s rules of war. You don’t biohazard attack another country. Do you think—(audio break)—or otherwise? SEGAL: So I think it’s very hard to imagine a world where there’s no cyber activity. So there are discussions about can you limit the types of conflict in cyberspace, though the U.N. primarily. And they have started to define some of the rules of the road that are very similar to other international law applying to armed conflict. So the U.S.’ position is essentially that international law applies in cyberspace, and things like the International Humanitarian Law apply in cyberspace. And you can have things like, you know, neutrality, and proportionality, and distinction. But they’re hard to think about in cyber, but we can—that’s what we should be doing. The Chinese and Russians have often argued we need a different type of treaty, that cyber is different. But given how valuable it seems, at least on the espionage side so far, I don’t think it’s very likely we’ll ever get an agreement where we have no activity in cyberspace. We might get something that says, you know, certain types of targets should be off limits. You shouldn’t go after a hospital, or you shouldn’t go after, you know, health data, things like that. But not a, you know, world peace kind of treaty. FASKIANOS: Thank you. So I’m going to take the next question from David Woodside at Fordham University. Three upvotes. What role does North Korea play in U.S.-China cyber discussions? Can you China act outside of cybersecurity agreements through its North Korean ally? SEGAL: Yeah. I think, you know, like many things with North Korea, the Chinese probably have a great deal of visibility. They have a few levers that they really don’t like using, but not a huge number. So, in particular, if you remember when North Korea hacked Sony and because of the—you know, the movie from Seth Rogan and Franco about the North Korean leader—those hackers seemed to be located in northern China, in Shenyang. So there was some sense that the Chinese probably could have, you know, controlled that. Since then, we have seen a migration of North Korean operators out of kind of north China. They now operate out of India, and Malaysia, and some other places. Also, Russia helped build another cable to North Korea, so the North Koreans are not as dependent on China. I think it’s very unlikely that the Chinese would kind of use North Korean proxies. I think the trust is very low of North Korean operators that they would, you know, have China’s interest in mind or that they might not overstep, that they would bring a great deal of kind of blowback to China there. So there’s been very little kind of—I would say kind of looking the other way earlier in much of North Korea’s actions. These days, I think probably less. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next question from Joan Kaufman at Harvard University. And if you can unmute yourself. Q: Yes. Thank you very much. I’m also with the Schwarzman Scholars program, the academic director. And I wanted to ask a follow up on your point about internet sovereignty. And, you know, the larger global governance bodies and mechanisms for, you know, internet governance and, you know, China’s role therein. I know China’s taken a much more muscular stance on, you know, the sovereignty issue, and justification for firewalls. So there’s a lot—there are a lot of countries that are sort of in the me too, you know, movement behind that, who do want to restrict the internet. So I just—could you give us a little update on what’s the status of that, versus, like, the Net Mundial people, who call for the total openness of the internet. And where is China in that space? How much influence does it have? And is it really—do you think the rules of the road are going to change in any significant way as a result of that? SEGAL: Yeah. So, you know, I think in some ways actually China has been less vocal about the phrase “cyber sovereignty.” The Wuzhen Internet Conference, which is kind of—China developed as a separate platform for promoting its ideas—you don’t see the phrase used as much, although the Chinese are still interjecting it, as we mentioned, in lots of kind of U.N. documents and other ideas. I think partly they don’t—they don’t promote as much because they don’t have to, because the idea of cyber sovereignty is now pretty widely accepted. And I don’t think it’s because of Chinese actions. I think it’s because there is widespread distrust and dissatisfaction with the internet that, you know, spans all types of regime types, right? Just look at any country, including the United States. We’re having a debate about how free and open the internet should be, what role firms should play in content moderation, should the government be allowed to take things down? You know, we’ve seen lots of countries passing fake news or online content moderation laws. There’s a lot of concern about data localization that countries are doing because of purported economic or law enforcement reasons. So I don’t think the Chinese really have to push cyber sovereignty that much because it is very attractive to lots of countries for specific reasons. Now, there is still, I think, a lot of engagement China has with other countries around what we would call cyber sovereignty, because China—countries know that, you know, China both has the experience with it, and will help pay for it. So certainly around the Belt and Road Initiative and other developing economies we do see, you know, the Chinese doing training of people on media management, or online management. There was this story just last week about, you know, Cambodia’s internet looking more like the Chinese internet. We know Vietnam copied part of their cybersecurity law from the Chinese law. A story maybe two years ago about Huawei helping in Zambia and Zimbabwe, if I remember correctly, in surveilling opposition members. So I think China, you know, still remains a big force around it. I think the idea still is cyber sovereignty. I just don’t think we see the phrase anymore. And I think there’s lots of demand pulls. Not China pushing it on other countries, I think lots of countries have decided, yeah, of course we’re going to regulate the internet. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question, from Ken Mayers, senior adjunct professor of history and political science at St. Francis College. Following up on Denis Simon’s question, to what extent to Chinese state actors and U.S. state actors share concerns about asymmetric threats to cybersecurity? Is there common ground for discussion? And I’m going to—actually, I’ll stop there, because— SEGAL: All right. So I’m going to interpret asymmetric threats meaning kind of cyber threats from other actors, meaning kind of nonstate or terrorist actors, or criminal actors. So I think there could be a shared interest. It’s very hard to operationalize. Probably about six or seven years ago I wrote a piece with a Chinese scholar that said, yes, of course we have a shared interest in preventing the proliferation of these weapons to terrorist actors and nonstate actors. But then it was very hard to figure out how you would share that information without exposing yourself to other types of attacks, or perhaps empowering your potential adversary. On cyber—for example, on ransomware, you would actually expect there could be some shared interest, since the Chinese have been victims of a fair number of Russian ransomware attacks. But given the close relationship between Putin and Xi these days, it’s hard to imagine that the U.S. and China are going to gang up on Russia on ransomware. So, again, I think there could be, it’s just very hard to operationalize. FASKIANOS: Great. Thank you. So just to follow on from Skyler Duggan, who is an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. Likewise, to these questions, how do we differentiate individual criminal groups from the state? And how can we be sure this isn’t China just trying to abdicate—or, one party, he doesn’t specify, trying to abdicate the responsibility? SEGAL: Yeah, I think—because there’s—one of the challenges faced by the U.S. and other liberal democracies is that we tend to primarily keep a fairly tight legal control over the cyber operations. They tend to be, you know, intelligence operations or military operations. So Title 10 or Title 50. There’s kind of a whole set of legal norms around it. The U.S. does not rely on proxy actors. And other, you know, liberal democracies tend to don’t. And U.S. adversaries in this space tend to do so. We know Iran does. We know Russia does. We know China does, although less than the others. Now according to this discussion group that I mentioned before at the U.N., the group of—what’s called the group of government experts, one of the norms that all the actors agreed upon was the norm of state responsibility, which is a common one in international law, that you are responsible for whatever happens in your territory. So using proxies should not, you know, be able to give you an out. You shouldn’t be able to say, well, it’s happening from our territory, we just—you know, we don’t know who they are and we can’t control them. But, you know, in operation that norm is being fairly widely ignored. Now, the other problem, of course, is the—is how do you actually decide who the actor is, the attribution problem, right? So here, you know, a lot of people are basically saying, well, we have to rely on the U.S. or the U.K. or others to say, well, you know, we say it’s these actors, and how do we know—how do we know for sure? Now, attribution is not as hard as we once thought it was going to be. When I first, you know, started doing the research for the book that Irina mentioned, attribution was considered, you know, a pretty big challenge. But now, you know, there’s a fairly high expectation that the U.S. will be able to eventually identify who’s behind an attack. Now, it may take some time. And we may not be able to completely identify who ordered the attack, which is, you know, as you mentioned, the problem with the proxies. But it’s not—it’s also not completely reliant on digital clearances. It’s not just the code or the language of the keyboard. All those things can be manipulated, don’t necessarily give you proof. Lots of time the U.S. is pulling in other intelligence—like, human intelligence, signals intelligence, other types of gathering. So, you know, part of it is how much do we believe the attribution, and then how much of it is—you know, what can you do with it afterwards? And, you know, I don’t think the proxy problem is going to go away. FASKIANOS: Great. So I’m going next to Tim Hofmockel’s question. It’s gotten seven upvotes. He’s a graduate student at Georgetown University. To flip Denis Simon’s question: Who should the “we” be? To what extent should the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense cooperate on offensive cyber operations? And how would we signal our intentions in a crisis given the overlap in authorities between the intelligence community and DOD? SEGAL: Yeah. I mean, so right now NSA and Cyber Command are dual hatted, meaning that one person is in charge of both of them, General Nakasone. So to some extent that could theoretically help deconflict between kind of intelligence gathering, offensive operations, and kind of signaling to the Chinese. But it’s unclear. It’s very—signaling in cyber so far seems to be kind of developing and unknown. That seems to be one of the big theories between the U.S. taking these more kinds of operations and, in fact, kind of bringing the fight to the Chinese is a very kind of sociological understanding of deterrence is that over time both sides will kind of understand where those red lines are by engaging and seeing where they’re acting. You know, others have talked about could you create some kind of watermark on the actual attack or vulnerability, so that the—you know, you might discover some type of malware in your system and there’d be like a little, you know, NFT, maybe, of sorts, that says, you know, the U.S. government was here. We’re warning you not to do this thing. You know, a lot of these have, you know, kind of technical problems. But the question of signaling I think is really hard, and that’s part of the reason why, you know, I think these discussions are so important, that at least we have a sense that we’re talking about the same types of things, and the same general set of tools. But I think probably through cyber signaling is going to be really hard. It’s going to be mostly other types of signaling. FASKIANOS: Next question from Maryalice Mazzara. She’s the director of educational programs at the State University of New York’s Office of Global Affairs. How can people who are working with China and have a very positive relationship with China balance the issues of cybersecurity with the work we are doing? Are there some positive approaches we can take with our Chinese colleagues in addressing these concerns? SEGAL: Good question, Ali. How are you? So I guess it’s very—so I do think there are forward-looking things that we can talk about. You know, several of the questions have asked, are there shared interests here? And I do think there are shared interests. You know, you we mentioned the proliferation one. We mentioned the nonstate actors. You know, there is a lot of language in the most recent statement from the Chinese government about—you know, that the internet should be democratic and open. I don’t think they mean it in the same way that we do, but we can, I think, certainly use that language to have discussions about it and hope push to those sides. But I think it is hard because it is—you know, partly because government choices, right? The U.S. government chooses to attribute lots of attacks to China and be very public about it. Chinese for the most part don’t attribute attacks, and don’t—they talk about the U.S. as being the biggest threat in cyberspace, and call the U.S. The Matrix and the most, you know, damaging force in cyberspace. But for the most part, don’t call out specific actors. So they kind of view it—the Chinese side is often in a kind of defensive crouch, basically saying, you know, who are you to judge us, and you guys are hypocrites, and everything else. So I think there are lots of reasons that make it hard. I think probably the way to do it is to try to look forward to these shared interests and this idea that we all benefitted immensely from a global internet. We now have different views of how open that internet should be. But I think we still want to maintain—the most remarkable thing about it is that we can, you know, still communicate with people around the world, we can still learn from people around the world, we can still draw information, most information, from around the world. And we want to, you know, keep that, which is a—which is—you know, not to use a Chinese phrase—but is a win-win for everybody. FASKIANOS: Great. I see a raised hand from Austin Oaks. And I can’t get my roster up fast enough, so, Austin, if you can unmute and identify yourself. Q: So I’m Austin Oaks. And I come from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. And I used to live in Guangdong province in China. And I used to go visit Hong Kong and Macau, more Hong Kong, very often. And Hong Kong has this very free internet, which China doesn’t particularly like. Macau tends to be more submissive to Beijing rather than Hong Kong does. But Chinese government has kind of started to put in people in the Hong Kong government to kind of sway the government into Beijing’s orbit more. So then how—so what is China doing in the cyberspace world for both of its separate administrative regions? Because one is a lot easier to control than the other. SEGAL: Yeah. So I think the idea of Hong Kong’s internet being independent and free is—it’s pretty much ending, right? So the national security law covers Hong Kong and allows the government to increasingly censor and filter and arrest people for what they are posting. We saw pressure on U.S. companies to handover data of some users. A lot of the U.S. companies say they’re going to move their headquarters or personnel out of Hong Kong because of those concerns. So, you know, it certainly is more open than the mainland is, but I think long-term trends are clearly pretty negative for Hong Kong. I expect Macau is the same direction, but as you mentioned, you know, the politics of Macau is just so much different from Hong Kong that it’s less of a concern for the Chinese. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take the next written question from Robert Harrison, a law student at Washburn University School of Law. My understanding is that there have been significant thefts of American small and medium-size business intellectual property by Chinese-based actors. This theft/transfer of knowledge may reduce the competitive edge from the original property holder. Are there any current efforts to curb IP thefts? Any ongoing analysis of the Belt and Road Initiative to evaluate the use of IP acquired by theft? SEGAL: Yeah. So, you know, as I mentioned, the U.S. tried to reach this agreement with China on the IP theft challenge. China held to it for about a year, and then essentially kind of went back to it. It’s been very hard to quantify the actual impact of what the theft has been. You know, there are numbers thrown around, a certain percent of GDP, or 250 billion (dollars) a year. There is what’s called the IP Commission, which is run out of the National Bureau of Asia Research that has been updating its report. But it’s very hard because, you know, a lot of the knowledge and data that’s stolen is tacit knowledge. Or, you know, is actual blueprints or IP, but they don’t have the tactic knowledge. So you can have the blueprints, but it’s then hard to turn from that to an actual product. And it’s hard in the civilian space to kind of track lots of products that seem stolen from U.S. products, as opposed to—on the military side you can look at, oh, here’s the Chinese stealth jet. It looks a lot like the U.S. stealth jet. Now, this could be physics. It could be intellectual property theft. But it’s harder on the commercial side to kind of put a number on it and see what the impact is. Although clearly, it’s had an impact. We do know that Chinese operators, you know, go after other targets other than the U.S., right? So they certainly go—are active in Europe. We’ve seen them in Southeast Asia. Most of that is probably political espionage, not as much industrial espionage. Although, there has been—has been some. I don’t know of any specific cases where we can point to anything along the Belt and Road Initiative that, you know, seems in and of itself the outcome of IP theft. FASKIANOS: I’m going to take a written question from Caroline Wagner, who is the Milton and Roslyn Wolf chair in international affairs at Ohio State University. Chinese actors seem to have incredibly pervasive links to track online discussions critical of China. Are these mostly bots, or are there human actors behind them? SEGAL: So I’m going to interpret that to me for the net outside of China. So, yes. I think what we’re learning is there’s several things going on. Part of it is bots. So they have, you know, a number of bots that are triggered by certain phrases. Some of it is human, but increasingly probably a lot of it is machine learning. So there was a story maybe last month in the Post, if I remember it correctly, about, you know, Chinese analytical software data companies offering their services to local Ministry of State Security to basically kind of scrape and monitor U.S. platforms. And that is primarily going to be done through, you know, machine learning, and maybe a little human operations as well. FASKIANOS: Thank you. And this is a bit of a follow-on, and then I’ll go to more. William Weeks, who is an undergraduate at Arizona State University asks: What role does unsupervised machine learning play in China’s cyberspace strategy? SEGAL: Yeah, it’s a good question. I don’t have a lot of details. You know, like everybody else there, they are going to start using it on defense. It is a big push on what’s called military-civil fusion. You know, we know that they are trying to pull in from the private sector on AI, both for the defense and the offense side. But right now, all I can give you is kind of general speculation about how actors think about offense and defense with ML and AI. Not a lot of specifics from the Chinese here. FASKIANOS: Thank you. OK, Morton Holbrook, who’s at Kentucky Wesleyan College. Q: Yes. Following up on your comment about Hong Kong, about U.S. companies reconsidering their presence due to internet controls, what about U.S. companies in China and Beijing and Shanghai? Do you see a similar trend there regarding internet controls, or regarding IPR theft? SEGAL: I think, you know, almost all firms that have been in China, this has been a constant issue for them. So it’s not particularly new. I think almost all of them have, you know, made decisions both about how to protect their intellectual property theft—intellectual property from theft, and how to maintain connections to the outside, to make them harder. You know, VPNs were fairly widely used. Now they’re more tightly regulated. We know that the Chinese actually can attack VPNs. So it think, you know, those issues have been constant irritants. I think, you know, COVID and the lack of travel, the worry about getting kind of caught up in nationalist backlashes online to, you know, Xinjiang issues or if you refer to Taiwan incorrectly, those are probably higher concerns right now than these kind of more constant concerns about cyber and IP. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Anson Wang, who’s an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo. We have three upvotes. Is China considered the major threat to the U.S. hegemony because China is actively trying to replace the U.S. as the new global hegemon? Or simply because China is on a trajectory to get there, without or without their active intention in involving other countries’ internal politics, the same way that the U.S. does? SEGAL: Yeah. So I think this is a—you know, a larger question about what China wants in the world. And do we—you know, we do we think it has a plan or ideology of replacing the U.S.? And does it want—or, would it be happen even with regional dominance? Does it just want to block U.S. interest and others? It’s a big debate. You know, lots of people have contrasting views on where they think China is coming. I’ll just use the cyber example. And I think here, you know, the Chinese started with wanting to block the U.S., and prevent the U.S. from criticizing China, and protect itself. I don’t think it had any desire to reshape the global internet. But I think that’s changed. I think under Xi Jinping they really want to change the definitions of what people think the state should do in this space. I think they want to change the shape of the internet. I don’t think they want to spread their model to every country, but if you want to build their model they’re certainly welcome to help you. And they don’t mind pushing, perhaps highlighting, in some cases exploiting the weaknesses they see in the U.S. as well. FASKIANOS: OK. Thank you. I’m going to go to Helen You, who’s a student at NYU. It appears that governments are reluctant to restrict their cyber capabilities because they fundamentally do not want to limit their own freedom to launch cyberattacks. As a result, countries fail to follow voluntary norms on what is permissible in cyberspace. To what extent are industry standards influencing international cybersecurity norms? And what incentives would need to be in place to move these conversations forward? SEGAL: Yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, I think that’s one of the reasons why we haven’t seen a lot of progress, is because states don’t have a lot of reason to stop doing it. The costs are low, and the benefits seem to be high. Now, I understand your question in two separate ways. One, there is a kind of private attempt to push these norms, and basically arguing that states are going too slow. Part of that was promoted by Microsoft, the company, right? So it promoted the idea of what they were calling the Digital Geneva Convention, and then they have been involved in what’s now known as the Paris Accords that define some of these rules, that the U.S. just signed onto, and some other states have signed onto. But again, the norms are pretty vague, and haven’t seemed to have that much effect. There’s a thing called the cybersecurity—Global Cybersecurity Stability Commission that the Dutch government helped fund but was mainly through think tanks and academics. It also has a list of norms. So there is a kind of norm entrepreneurship going on. And those ideas are slowly kind of bubbling out there. But you need to see changes in the state to get there. That’s when we know that norms matter. And that we really haven’t seen. On the—there is a lot of work, of course, going on, on the standards of cybersecurity, and what companies should do, how they should be defined. And that happens both domestically and internationally. And of course, the companies are very involved in that. And, you know, that is much further, right? Because that has to do about regulation inside of markets, although there’s still, you know, a fair amount of difference between the U.S. and EU and other close economies about how those standards should be defined, who should do the defining, how they should be implemented. FASKIANOS: Thank you. I’m going to take group two questions from Dr. Mursel Dogrul of the Turkish National Defense University. In a most recent article we focused on the blockchain literature expansion of superpowers. In terms of publications and citations, China clearly outperformed the United States and Russia. Do you believe the technological advancement will have an impact on the cybersecurity race? And the Michael Trevett—I don’t have an affiliation—wanted you to speak a little bit more about the cyber triangle with Russia. How are China and Russia coordinating and cooperating? SEGAL: Yeah. So the first question, you know, clearly, as I have briefly mentioned in my opening comments, that the Chinese are pushing very hard on the technologies they think are going to be critical to the—to the future competition in this space—blockchain, quantum, AI. The Chinese have made a lot of advances on quantum communication and quantum key distribution. Probably behind the U.S. on quantum computing, but it’s hard to say for sure. And blockchain is a space the Chinese have developed some usages and are rolling some test cases out on the security side and the internet platforming side. On the China-Russia question, so closer cooperation. Most of it has been around cyber sovereignty, and the ideas of kind of global governance of cyberspace. The Chinese were, you know, pretty helpful at the beginning stages, when Russia started using more technological means to censoring and controlling the Russian internet. So helping kind of build some of the—or, export some of the technologies used in the China great firewall, that the Russians could help develop. Russia is pretty much all-in with Huawei on 5G. And so a lot of cooperation there. Although, the Russians are also worried about, you know, Chinese espionage from Russian technology and other secrets. They did sign a nonaggression cyber pact between the two, but both sides continue to hack each other and steal each other’s secrets. And have not seen any evidence of cooperation on the operations side, on intelligence. with them doing more and more military exercises together, I would suspect we would perhaps start seeing some suggestion that they were coordinating on the military side in cyber. But the last time I looked, I didn’t really see any—I did not see any analysis of that. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Next question from Jeffrey Rosensweig, who is the director of the program for business and public policy at Emory University. Q: Adam, I wonder if you could fit India in here anywhere you would like to? Because it think it’ll be the other great economy of the future. SEGAL: Yeah. So India’s a—you know, a really interesting actor in this space, right? So, you know, India basically think that it has two major cyber threats—Pakistan, and China being the other. China, you know, was reportedly behind some of the blackouts in Mumbai after the border clash. I am somewhat skeptical about reporting, but it’s certainly a possibility, and there’s no reason to doubt the Chinese have been mapping critical infrastructure there. India pushed back on TikTok and ByteDance. You know, also concerns about data control and other things. There is a long history of kind of going back and forth on Huawei. The intelligence agency has not really wanted to use, but others wanting to help, you know, bridge the digital divide and build out pretty quickly. India right now is talking about its own type of 5G. But from a U.S. perspective, you know, I think the most important thing—and this is often how India comes up—is that, you know, we want India to be an amplifier, promoter of a lot of these norms on cyber governance, because it is a, you know, developing, multiethnic, multiparty democracy. And so we want it just not to be the U.S.’ voice. Now, India’s a pretty complicated, difficult messenger for those things these days, right? India leads the world in internet shutdowns, and we’ve seen a lot of harassment of opposition leaders and other people who are opposed to Modi. So it’s not going to be easy. But I think the U.S. for a long time has hoped that we could forge a greater understanding on the cyber side with India. FASKIANOS: Great. I’m going to take the next question from Michael O’Hara, who is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. And I’m going to shorten it. He asks about China’s fourteenth five-year plan, from 2021 to 2025. It includes a section titled “Accelerate digitalization-based development and construct a digital China.” Do you see their five-year plan as a useful way for thinking about Chinese future in cyberspace? SEGAL: Yes. So we’re on the same page, the digital plan came out two or three weeks ago. It was just translated. Yeah, I mean, the plan is useful. Like, all Chinese plans are useful in the sense that it certainly gives us clear thinking about the direction that China wants to go, and the importance it puts on a topic. You know, the implementation and bureaucratic obstacles and all those other things are going to play a role. But as I mentioned, I think, you know, the Chinese economy is becoming increasingly digitalized. And in particular, they want to digitize, you know, more and more of the manufacturing sector and transportation, mining, other sectors that are traditionally not, you know, thought of as being digital, but the Chinese really want to move into that space. Now, from a cybersecurity perspective, that, you know, raises a whole range of new vulnerabilities and security issues. And so I think that’s going to be very high on their thinking. And just today I tweeted a story that they held a meeting on thinking about cybersecurity in the metaverse. So, you know, they’re looking forward, and cybersecurity is going to be a very high concern of people. FASKIANOS: Well, we couldn’t have the Naval Academy without the U.S. Air Force Academy. So, Chris Miller, you wrote your question, but you’ve also raised your hand. So I’m going to ask to have you articulate it yourself. Q: Well, actually, I changed questions, Irina. Adam, thank you. FASKIANOS: Oh, OK. (Laughs.) But still, the Air Force Academy. Q: So two quick questions. I’ll combine them. One is: I’m curious how you see the new cyber director—national cyber director’s role changing this dynamic, if it at all, or changing the parts of it on our side of the Pacific that we care about. And second of all, curious how you see China viewing the Taiwanese infrastructure that they probably desire, whether or not they eventually take it by force or by persuasion. SEGAL: Yeah. So I don’t think the NCD changes the dynamic very much. You know, I think there’s lots of—you know, everyone is watching to see how the NCD and the National Security Council, and CISA, the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency, work out the responsibilities among the three of them, which will have an impact, you know, of making us more secure. And, you know, Chris Inglis, the head of the NCD has given lots of talks about how they’re going to manage and work together. And I think we’re beginning to see some signs of that. But I think that’s probably the most direct impact it’ll have on the dynamic. Your second question, you know, I think primarily is about, you know, Taiwan Semiconductor. And, you know, do the Chinese eventually decide, well, chips are so important, and the U.S. is working so hard to cut us off, that, you know, for all the other reasons that we might want to see Taiwan, you know, that one is going to get moved up? You know, I think it’s a possibility. I think it’s a very low possibility. I do think we don’t know what the red lines are on the tech war, right? You know, there’s been talk about cutting off SMIC, the Shanghai manufacturer of integrated circuits, are also a very important company to the Chinese. Would that push the Chinese to do more aggressive or assertive things in this space? You know, what is it that we do in that space that eventually pulls them out? But I think it’s very hard—(audio break)—that they could capture TSMC in a shape that would be useful. Am I breaking up? FASKIANOS: Just a little bit, but it was fine. We have you now. SEGAL: Yeah. That you could capture TSMC in a shape that would be useful, right? I mean, there was that piece, I think, that was written by an Army person, maybe in Parameters, that, you know, the U.S. and Taiwan’s plan should be basically just to—you know, to sabotage TSMC in case there’s any invasion, and make that clear that that’s what it’s going to do. But even without that risk, you’re still dealing—you know, any damage and then, flight of people outside of Taiwan, because the Taiwanese engineers are really important. So it would be very high risk, I think, that they could capture it and then use it. FASKIANOS: Thank you. Well, I am sorry that we couldn’t get to all the questions, but this has been a great conversation. Adam Segal, thank you very much for being with us. You know, you’re such a great resource. I’m going to task you after this, there was a question from Andrew Moore at the University of Kansas about other resources and books that you would suggest to learn more about China and cybersecurity. So I’m going to get—come to you after this for a few suggestions, which we will send out to the group along with the link to this video and the transcript. So, Andrew, we will get back to you and share with everybody else. And so, again, you can follow Dr. Segal on Twitter at @adschina. Is that correct, Adam? SEGAL: That’s right. FASKIANOS: OK. And also sign up for—to receive blog alerts for Net Politics you can go to CFR.org for that. Our next webinar will be on Wednesday, February 9, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. And we’re excited to have Patrick Dennis Duddy, director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Duke, to talk about democracy in Latin America. So thank you for being with us. You can follow us on Twitter at @CFR_Academic. Visit CFR.org, foreignaffairs.com and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for new research and analysis on other global issues. And again, Adam, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate it. SEGAL: My pleasure. FASKIANOS: Take care.
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