My analysis has appeared in: Foreign Policy, Forbes, The Hill, War on the Rocks, China File, The National Interest, The Strategist, China Brief, and Jane’s Intelligence Review, among others. To commission a piece, please email your request to: Please state your full name and affiliation.

28 November 2018 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Hearing on The Communist Party’s Crackdown on Religion in China (Image: Samantha Hoffman, 2018).
28 November 2018 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Hearing on The Communist Party’s Crackdown on Religion in China (Image: Samantha Hoffman, 2018).

Latest Opinion |

The Chinese Communist Party Always Needs An Enemy 

Foreign Policy, 24 January 2019

My new article for Foreign Policy analyzes the causes behind the Party’s repression of religion in Xinjiang and across China: political weakness and existential fear. Weakness does not make collapse inevitable but instead can be used to grow the CCP’s unchecked power. If Xinjiang’s camps and detention centers were closed tomorrow, the core problem would not disappear. The problem is in the nature of the CCP itself. 

The article is based on my testimony at the 28 November 2018 Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s hearing on the Crackdown on Religion in China. My prepared statement is available here and a video of the hearing is available at the CECC’s YouTube Channel.  


Britain must avoid being sucked into Huawei’s moral vacuum

CAPX, 24 June 2018 with Peter Mattis

In our new piece for CAPX, Peter Mattis and I argue that Huawei has been disingenuous in making its case for involvement in British infrastructure. Huawei cites “legal advice” from London-based law firm Clifford Chance and an opinion from PRC-based Zhong Lun lawfirm. We have obtained a copy of both. The Clifford Chance document is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Even if we judge the Zhong Lun and Clifford Chance opinions on what they claim to do — assess the laws as written — they both dismiss intent and language of China’s far-reaching state security legislation. But, we entertain for a moment that Huawei is a normal, independent company. If so, how should it be judged? For one, a normal company does not have hostages held on its behalf…. Read More here. 

Illustration by Wes Mountain, commissioned by ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre
Illustration by Wes Mountain, commissioned by ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre

Social Credit |

Grasping Power with Both Hands: Social Credit, the Mass Line and Party Control

My new article for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief  is focused on how the social credit system functions as a tool for making the Chinese Communist Party’s political control structurally inseparable from China’s economic and social development. It explains why social credit is always simultaneously a tool for problem-solving and an Orwellian tool for control.


Social Credit: Technology-Enhanced Authoritarian Control with Global Consequences

My June 2018 report for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre is now available. It explores the global implications of the Social Credit System, which is far more expansive than commonly assumed.

Media Coverage: 

  • “ZTE Could Help Chinese ‘Institutes’ at Western Schools Become Surveillance Hubs” in The Daily Beast by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
  • “Technology & the Chinese Military, and The Mexican Election” ABC on Matter of Fact with Stan Grant
  • “China’s big brother targets foreign companies like Qantas” in the Financial Review by Angus Grigg
  • “China’s social credit system ‘could interfere in other nations’ sovereignty’” The Guardian (Australia) by Kelsey Munro
(Image: Copyright MERICS)
(Image: Copyright MERICS)

Autonomic Security |

My research on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) state security strategy and social management provides a new framework for understanding the Party. The CCP has developed a form of authoritarianism that cannot be measured through traditional political scales like “reform” versus “retrenchment”. This version of authoritarianism involves co-opting and coercing society into participating in its own management. I.e. “self-management”. Examples of this dynamic range from the increasingly sophisticated surveillance state to the nascent social credit system. The effort does not stop at China’s borders, because it is a part of a state security strategy that prioritises the CCP’s position in power above all else. 


“Programming China: The Communist Party’s Autonomic Approach to Managing State Security.”    MERICS China Monitor, 12 December 2017. 

“China’s State Security Strategy: ‘Everyone is Responsible'”  The Strategist, 11 December 2017.  

“Managing the State: Social Credit, Surveillance and the CCP’s Plan for China” China Brief, 17 August 2017. 

(Image: User 360b/
(Image: User 360b/

China’s CSSC |

Peter Mattis and I have co-authored several articles on China’s Central State Security Commission, which include:


Complete List |

  • “Britain Must Avoid Being Sucked into Huawei’s Moral Vacuum” CAPX, 24 June 2019.
  • “The Chinese Communist Party Always Needs An Enemy.” Foreign Policy24 January 2019. 
  • “Detentions show the length China will go in fight with the West.” The Hill,  23 January 2019.
  • “The People’s Republic of China: What Can the UK and Its Allies Learn from Competitors and Rising Powers?” The Changing Character of War Centre, 10 December 2018.
  • “Technology and Chinese Communist Party Power.” in Party Watch Annual Report 2018, Party Watch Initiative, 18 October 2018.
  • “Grasping Power with Both Hands: Social Credit, the Mass Line, and Party Control.” China Brief, 10 October 2018.
  • “Hacking for Ca$h.” ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre, 25 September 2018.
  • “Huawei and the ambiguity of China’s intelligence and counter-espionage laws.” The Strategist, 13 September 2018.
  • “Social Credit: Technology Enhanced Social Control with Global Consequences.” ASPI International Cyber Policy Centre, 28 June 2018. 
  • “China’s Incursion on American Campuses is Nothing to Take Lightly.” The Hill, 3 May 2017.
  • “Programming China: The Communist Party’s Autonomic Approach to Managing State Security.” MERICS Monitor No 44, 12 December 2017.
  • “China’s State Security Strategy: ‘Everyone is Responsible’.” The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist, 11 December 2017. Republished as IISS Expert Commentary on 14 December 2017 and as a Mercator Institute for China Studies blog on 15 December 2017.
  • “Chinese Legislation Points to New Intelligence Co-Ordinating System.” Jane’s Intelligence Review, October 2017.
  • “Managing the State: Social Credit, Surveillance and the CCP’s Plan for China.” China Brief, 17 August 2017
  • “Is Big Data Increasing Beijing’s Capacity for Control?” contribution in China File conversation co-authored with Peter Mattis, also published in Foreign Policy as “What Could China’s ‘Social Credit System’ Mean for its Citizens?” August 2016.
  • “Managing the Power from Within: China’s State Security Commission.” co-authored with Peter Mattis, War on the Rocks, 18 July 2016.
  • “’Dangerous Love’: China’s All-Encompassing Security Vision.” The National Interest, 17 May 2016.
  • “Cautious Partners: Asian Cyber-Security Alliance Remains Distant.” Jane’s Intelligence Review, May 2016.
  • “Ensuring Comprehensive State Security in the “Ideological Battleground” Online.” China Brief, 16 November 2015.
  • “Space Control: China Tightens Grip on Cyberspace.” Jane’s Intelligence Review, June 2015.
  • “Environmental Protests Expose Weaknesses in China’s Leadership.” co-authored with Jonathan Sullivan, Forbes, 22 June 2015. 
  • “Why a village land protest spells trouble for China’s government”, co-authored with Jonathan Sullivan, The Conversation, 10 April 2015. Also appeared in The Straits Times and The Business Spectator
  • “China prioritises managing unrest over reforms.” Jane’s Intelligence Review, February 2015.
  • “Escalating Land Protests in Yunnan”, China Policy Institute Blog, 6 November 2014.
  • “In China, people are protesting about the government’s rubbish policy on waste incineration.” The Conversation, 2 October 2014. 
  • “China must follow through on pledges to improve notorious petition system.” (appeared in SCMP print edition as “Limited Appeal”), co-authored with Jonathan Sullivan, The South China Morning Post, 27 May 2014. 
  • “China can’t ignore Workers’ well-being if it wants to avert strikes.” (SCMP print edition “Costs and Benefits” and SCMP Chinese Online Edition “Gaoshan gongren fuli cai shi bimian gongchao zhi dao”), co-authored with Jonathan Sullivan, The South China Morning Post, 29 April 2014. 
  • “China’s new petitioning guidelines and social governance policy.” China Policy Institute Blog, 3 March 2014.
  • “China’s Proposed ‘State Security Council’: Social governance under Xi Jinping.” co-authored with Peter Mattis, China Policy Institute Blog, 21 November 2013. 
  • “Inside China’s New Security Council.” co-authored with Peter Mattis, The National Interest, 21 November 2013.
  • “Portents of Change in China’s Social Management.” China Brief, 3 August 2012. 
  • “Sino-Philippine Tension and Trade Both Rising Amid Scarborough Standoff,” China Brief, 27 April 2012.
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