In the final installment of The Cybersecurity and Geopolitical Podcast of 2021, Cyjax Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Ian Thornton-Trump is joined by Joe Frederick and Gavin Greenwood of A2 Global Risk to take a deep dive into the state of cyber technology and security in China. Is it an opportunity? A threat? Or neither?

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Gavin Greenwood, Senior Analyst specializing in the Asia region, outlines the historical and geopolitical context of China's cyber stance. Under Xi Jinping, the current Chinese premier, the country has become more active in the technology sphere. In order to understand the present situation and the way in which the government in Beijing chooses to pursue its international relations, the Cybersecurity and Geopolitical Podcast speakers examine the past. Greenwood speaks to the cultural revolution of the late 1960s, which fundamentally changed the political landscape of the world’s most populous nation.

When considering the current geopolitical landscape of China, Frederick compares the nation's foreign policy to Russia's strategy. With the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics and the genocide of the Uyghur population within the country, China's international relations are strained by economic pressure and other sanctions from around the world. According to Frederick, "A lot of policies coming out of Beijing are aimed to advance its strategic interests, which also spills over into the security sphere as well." 

The cybersecurity leaders highlight the advancing cyber warfare and espionage capabilities of the nation, assessing Chinese capability versus its ability, and willingness, to act. Frederick and Greenwood agree that it’s highly unlikely any cyber warfare technologies would be deployed outside the country. It simply wouldn’t be in China’s interest, they say, to foment external unrest. Indeed, territorial expansion doesn’t seem to be the intention.

Thornton-Trump, Greenwood and Frederick explore the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): “part foreign policy, part business opportunity,” as the host notes. The BRI is clearly, says Frederick, a way of ensuring that countries around the world are being brought into China’s sphere of influence whether through debt or cooperation agreements. Indeed, many of the projects that have been built under the auspices of the BRI have little to no strategic benefit. The port in Sri Lanka and the train line in Laos, for example, are not military assets. They cannot be defended in a conflict. But in the case of the port, at least, they do interfere in the communities in which they were constructed, which, as Greenwood points out, may be “what they’re intended to do.”

Lastly, Frederick and Greenwood give some predictions for 2022. Looking at tech and any future regulation of major multinationals in that space, finance and politics, it seems we’re in for an exciting year. But you’ll have to check out the podcast to hear those!

Watch the video version here or listen to the audio podcast above or via this link.