Authoritarians at the Cutting Edge: China, Innovation, and the Global Balance of Power | Jennifer Lind

Authoritarians at the Cutting Edge: China, Innovation, and the Global Balance of Power | Jennifer Lind

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

  • Jennifer Lind

About the Event: Scholars are debating whether China’s rise will transform the current unipolar distribution of power. Although China clearly has the aggregate size to match (indeed, overtake) the United States, observers debate whether China can catch up technologically. Skeptics typically make two arguments: that 1) a large gap exists between the technological capabilities of China and the United States, and 2) that China will be unable to bridge this gap because its authoritarian institutions inhibit its innovative potential.

Jennifer Lind argues against both of these points. First, she shows empirically that China is defying pessimistic expectations by emerging as a global technological leader. China has already caught up to (and in some cases overtaken) other cutting-edge economies such as France, Israel, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, China and the United States are engaged in a rivalry with respect to the emerging technologies of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Second, institutions arguments fail to explain the Chinese case because they neglect significant heterogeneity among authoritarian regimes: namely that while some fail to foster growth and innovation, “smart authoritarians” provide public goods, constrain leaders, allow limited civil society, and pursue other policies that encourage growth. These findings have profound implications for the future balance of power (suggesting a shift to bipolarity), and add to an authoritarian politics literature that has demonstrated the increasing adaptability and resilience of authoritarian regimes. 

About the Speaker: Professor Lind holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; a Master’s from the School of Global Policy & Strategy from the University of California, San Diego; and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Professor Lind is the author of Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics, a book that examines the effect of war memory on international reconciliation (Cornell University Press, 2008). She has  authored scholarly articles in International Security and International Studies Quarterly, and writes for wider audiences in outlets such as Foreign Affairs and National Interest. She has been quoted and interviewed by PBS Newshour, National Public Radio, the Washington Post, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Professor Lind is affiliated with the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard, as well as Chatham House, London. In recent years she has been a visiting scholar at Waseda University, Japan, and at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Lind has worked as a consultant for RAND and for the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense. She has recently authored a book (under review) about China’s rise to great power, adaptation by authoritarian regimes, and the future of great-power politics.

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