Algorithmic Governance On The New Silk Road: An Essay On Power, Technology, Cities And Regimes

Ricardo Andrade


In recent years, fast development of technologies such as artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics, along with the popularization of global platform services like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu and WeChat led to major impact on elections, public opinion, privacy and other core socio-political processes in Western democracies. China has established ambitious policies towards becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence in the next decade, and some of the largest Chinese technology groups are now exporting know-how in smart city solutions to a growing number of cities and countries along the Belt and Road Initiative. The companies providing technology are the same that support the Chinese government with technical systems for surveillance of minority groups in Xinjiang, or develop pilot programs for China’s controversial social credit system. New regulation has recently made it compulsory for large private Chinese companies in strategic sectors to have members of the communist party at the highest management level, formally blurring the lines between public and private interests in the way these companies operate in China and abroad. Also, the unprecedented economic development of China in the last decades and its new global geopolitical influence add to a number of challenges currently faced by liberal democracy. This article looks into the interdisciplinary nexus of China’s expanding geopolitical influence, the increasing relevance of algorithmic systems in the public and private sector, and the crisis of liberal democracy. The author briefly introduces four cases of smart city initiatives where these factors intertwine, and points towards the need for further research on emerging fields such as algorithmic governance. The abovementioned topics and cases are presented in the context of the author’s ongoing doctoral research project at the Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin.


Algorithmic governance; Democracy; Technology; China; New silk road; Artificial intelligence; Big Data; Smart cities

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ISSN 2317-3254