Authoritarians at the Cutting Edge: China, innovation, and the global balance of power | 2022 | Events

Authoritarians at the Cutting Edge: China, innovation, and the global balance of power
Jennifer Lind
Jennifer Lind
Dartmouth College
November 16, 2022


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. 

Prof. Lind will present arguments against both of these points. First, showing 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, Prof. Lind argues 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.


Jennifer Lind is an Associate Professor in Dartmouth College's Department of Government, a Faculty Associate at Harvard University's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and an Associate Fellow at Chatham House. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from MIT, a Master's in Pacific International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Prof. Lind is the author of Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics, a book that examines the effect of war memory on international. 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, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. 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 is currently writing a book about the speed and complexity with which countries rise to become great powers.