Surveillance State: China’s Digital Tools of Repression




As part of NSI’s ongoing series, “A Spotlight on China’s Global Repression,” we were excited to host a discussion examining how China uses digital tools, such as social media platforms like WeChat and TikTok and its social credit system, to further the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive goals. Experts outlined the dangers these tactics pose inside and outside China and how the U.S. can counter these global threats.



  • Geoffrey Cain, NSI Fellow, Senior Fellow, Lincoln Network
  • Lindsay Gorman, Senior Fellow, Emerging Technologies, Alliance for Securing Democracy,  German Marshall Fund
  • Yaqiu Wang, Senior China Researcher, Human Rights Watch
  • Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg, NSI Advisory Board member, President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (moderator)


Geoffrey Cain is an award-winning foreign correspondent, author, technologist, and scholar of East and Central Asia. His first book, Samsung Rising: The Inside Story of the South Korean Giant That Set Out to Beat Apple and Conquer Tech, from a decade of his coverage of the world’s largest technology conglomerate, was published in March 2020 by Currency at Penguin Random House. It was longlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, and was named a Cult of Mac best tech book of 2020.

A former correspondent at The Economist, Cain is a regular commentator in The Wall Street Journal, Time, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, and The Nation, a contributing editor at The Mekong Review, and a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and Bloomberg. Cain writes about the ways that technology is upending our lives, communities, governments, and businesses. His work takes him to the world’s most authoritarian and far-off places, from inside North Korea to the trans-Siberian railway across Russia, from investigations into genocide in Cambodia to experiments in technological surveillance in China.

Cain is sought out as a consultant on government, business, and technology, having advised the World Health Organization, Open Government Partnership, the United Nations humanitarian affairs office, and major multinational corporations and hedge funds. A Fulbright scholar, he holds a master’s with distinction from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and a bachelor’s at The George Washington University, which he attended on a music scholarship. He is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Chicago, Cain lives in Istanbul, Turkey and Washington, DC. He plays the jazz trombone.

Lindsay Gorman is the Senior Fellow for Emerging Technologies at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy. She leads ASD’s work on US-China technology competition, including efforts on AI, quantum information, 5G and advanced telecommunications, democratic responses to autocratic technology influence and interference, cybersecurity, and transatlantic innovation.

Lindsay most recently served as a senior adviser in the Biden White House. At the Office of Science Technology and National Security Council, she crafted US technology and national security strategy and led international technology initiatives through the US-EU Trade and Technology Council and Quad. She was also the principal architect of the Advancing Technology for Democracy agenda of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal and multilateral technology initiatives on export controls and AI.

Prior to serving in the White House, Lindsay spent over a decade at the intersection of technology development and national security policy. She is the former CEO and managing director of a technology consulting firm she founded, Politech Advisory, where she advised start-up companies and venture capital. She has served as an expert contributor to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission on international standards; a technology adviser to U.S. Senator Mark Warner; a consultant to Schmidt Futures on 5G; and a fellow with the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on International Security and Arms Control, conducting track II dialogues on cyber and nuclear security. And early in her career, as a quantum physicist and computer scientist, she led the Perception Team for Princeton University’s entry into the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge, pioneered initial experiments on topological insulators, and advised start-up companies in Silicon Valley on cybersecurity tools.

Lindsay regularly delivers keynote addresses and briefs senior leaders across the Atlantic on China’s digital technology and building a democratic approach to emerging technologies. Her analysis regularly appears in outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic, and she frequently appears in TV and radio interviews on CBS News, NPR, and Bloomberg. She is also a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Truman National Security Project, and an awardee of the U.S. State Department Speaker Program. Lindsay holds an A.B. in physics from Princeton University, where she graduated magna cum laude, and a M.S. in applied physics from Stanford University.

Yaqiu Wang (pronounced ya-cho) is a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, working on issues including internet censorship, freedom of expression, protection of civil society and human rights defenders, and women’s rights in China. She has also written extensively on the Chinese government’s role in undermining human rights globally and global corporations’ complicity in human rights violations in China. Wang has testified before US Congress. Her articles have appeared in Foreign PolicyThe AtlanticThe Washington Post, and elsewhere. She has been quoted by news outlets such as The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and has appeared on BBC, CNN, NBC and others.

Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, Wang was a researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists, working on press freedom issues in China and other Asian countries. Wang was born and grew up in China, and has a MA degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg became president of INSA and INSF (501c3) on December 1, 2019. As president, Suzanne oversees INSA’s finances, strategic planning, marketing, events, and corporate partnerships. She leads strategic initiatives across the organization focused on building the association’s brand, strengthening member value, and growing and diversifying member ranks. Since 2010, Suzanne has held various leadership positions at INSA and was the driving force behind INSA’s expansion into markets outside the Washington, DC region, as well as its popular, The New IC symposium, which focuses on diversity with inclusion in the intelligence community. She also spearheaded the INSA Foundation’s scholarship program that currently provide 6 scholarships to undergraduate and Master’s students pursuing careers in the intelligence and national security community.

Suzanne works closely with the executive leadership team, advisory committee, and members of the board of directors to coordinate policy initiatives and programs on issues that are key to the intelligence and national security community. Prior to INSA, she served as Vice President of Marketing for Ripple Communications, a woman-owned strategic communications firm.