REMIT researchers put together a panel for the famed International Studies Association annual conference in 2024 in San Fransisco, as well as participated in a few others events. Below, we’re introducing the papers included in our panel, as well as giving our researchers an opportunity to speak more about their research, and their experience at the conference. Our deep thanks goes out to everyone involved for representing REMIT expertly!

FA75: Friday 8:15 AM – 10:00 AM
“The Technological Race in an Era of Great Power Competition”

Chair: Catherine Yuk-ping Lo (UM; REMIT)
Discussant: Hyeyoon Park (Wageningen University; non-REMIT researcher

The contributions to this panel explores the role of major powers, in particular the United States, the European Union and China, in the implementation of new technologies. Despite the increase in literature in the topic, important blind spots remain when investigating the technology and its impact on multilateralism. Indeed, there is still little consensus on the definition of technology as well as on the identification of the actors and strategies they pursue in deploying it. The proposed papers aim to identify the main drivers of technological development and key players by mapping the evolution, the use or abuse of different technologies – which include AI, panopticon surveillance, ultra-broadband and cybersecurity – on global governance. Furthermore, it encourages the debate on the harsh competition between powers over technology and the need of establishing a coordinated multilateral framework that regulates its deployment in accordance with international law. In doing so, the panel involves both researchers from the EU funded Horizon Project REMIT, which seeks to expand knowledge on the opportunities and challenges that arise from technology, and other scholars at different career levels. 

Moderator Catherine Lo comments on the panel as a whole:
“It was a pleasure to be the moderator of the panel on the technological race in the era of great power competition at the ISA annual conference. Although the panel was originally organised by REMIT researchers, an additional paper from Prof. Hsin-Chih Chen of National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, who is not affiliated with REMIT, was included in our panel. Chen’s paper presented an analytical framework based on the Leadership Long Cycles paradigm to examine the strategies that hegemons (i.e., the US) might employ to limit the capabilities of rising powers (i.e., China) and slow down their rate of power growth. Following Prof. Hsin-Chih Chen’s presentation on US-China geopolitical competition, Prof. dr. Thomas Christiansen took the stage to introduce our REMIT project and researchers to the audience before presenting his co-author paper. This served as a smooth transition to the subsequent four papers prepared by REMIT researchers. Shifting the focus from US-China bilateral relations, the second paper by Prof. dr. Thomas Christiansen, Dr. Flavia Lucenti, and Prof. dr. Sophie Vanhoonacker, as well as the third paper by Dr. Niklas Helwig, Dr. Ville Sinkkonen, and Dr. Marco Siddi, delved into the European Union’s positions, visions, and strategies in global technological governance. While the previous papers centred on the actors involved, the fourth paper by Prof. dr. Paul Timmers explored how a specific technology, artificial intelligence (AI), has become geopoliticised and its implications on international relations and foreign policy. Finally, as the last speaker of the panel, Prof. dr. Roberta Haar’s paper echoed Chen’s paper on US-China geopolitical competition in critical technologies. Overall, these five papers interconnected and complemented each other’s themes and findings, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of the topic.”


The Governance of Strategic Technologies: Between Geopolitical Competition and Multilateral Cooperation

Thomas Christiansen (Luiss University); Flavia Lucenti (LUISS University); Sophie Vanhoonacker (Maastricht University)
In an era of increasing geopolitical competition, leadership in global technology governance has acquired greater relevance. In this context, leading powers approach the challenge in various ways: the EU’s traditional approach to multilateral coordination and engagement contrasts with the moves towards de-coupling that both the US and China appear to follow. This makes it difficult, but increasingly urgent, to pursue the development of a regulatory framework for the responsible use of new technologies not only for the military but for civil aspects as well, ranging from surveillance to information manipulation. Hence, although China is playing an increasing role in setting standards on technological norms, it shows no interest in detailing their social and political (ab)use. At the same time, the US is driven more by the rivalry with Beijing rather than a genuine search for global governance solutions that can make high-tech compatible with respect for liberal-democratic values. The scope of the article is therefore to examine emerging policies as well as attitudes, perceptions and discourses of the main powers concerned – the EU, China, and the US. This comparative study will facilitate the identification of differences and similarities – and hence opportunities or obstacles for multilateral cooperation – in their respective efforts to regulate strategic technologies.

Authors’ comments:
“The paper delves into critical inquiries surrounding the EU strategic technology governance evolution from 2019 to 2024, coinciding with the tenure of the “Geopolitical Commission” led by Ursula von der Leyen. It scrutinises shifts in EU priorities and discerns the underlying reasons behind these changes. A comparative analysis with the governance approaches of China and the US is undertaken, aiming to illuminate potential pathways for multilateral cooperation. Emphasising a thematic focus on strategic technologies like AI and digital services, the study contextualises these developments against previous EU approaches. Through this exploration, the paper seeks to unravel the intricate dynamics shaping the EU’s role in global technological governance.
According to the discussant, the emergence of a new identity for the EU was a central theme. There was a discussion regarding the EU’s securitization while maintaining its identity as a norm maker, leading to a potential conflict of identities. An intriguing question arose: could the EU’s trajectory be likened to that of China? The discussant also suggested how the paper should also highlight more and more critically the divergent approaches of the EU, China, and the US, raising questions about how these disparities intersect and clash. Analogously, the paper should better investigate how the EU’s discourse and actions differ from those of the US and China and offer insights into global governance dynamics. Unravelling these complexities can help us to shed light on the dynamics of power, influence, and cooperation in the international arena.”

European visions or illusions? Strategic autonomy and the EU’s engagement in the international order in an era of great power- competition

Niklas Helwig (The Finnish Institute of International Affairs); Ville Sinkkonen (Finnish Institute of International Affairs); Marco Siddi (Finnish Institute of International Affairs) – presented by Ville Sinkkonen
Despite US continuous support to European security after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, transatlantic relations are still marked by uncertainty considering US protectionist policies and contentious domestic politics. At the same time, the European Union (EU) and its member states are reevaluating their relationship with China given the growing assertiveness of Beijing and its close relations with Moscow. Against this backdrop, the article explores the EU’s relationship with China, Russia, and the US between 2016 and 2023. By studying the dominant elite discourses in the EU, the paper investigates to what extent and how visions of European Strategic Autonomy in relation to these three global powers come to the fore and weighs the implications for the EU’s engagement in the international order. Based on an analysis of key policy documents and initiatives, the paper puts forward the argument that Strategic Autonomy became an ordering vision of the EU, although internally contested. The research shows how the EU defines its engagement in the military, economic and normative dimensions of the international order. It presents a nuanced analysis of the prospects for more European strategic autonomy and the implications for multilateral cooperation. 

Authors’ comments:
“The paper, entitled ”The EU’s evolving vision for the international order: The pitfalls of coming-of-age” deals with the EU’s ordering vision in the ten year-period from 2014 to 2024 across three dimensions: distributional, institutional and normative and the help of two case studies on energy politics and security and defence. The analysis finds that the EU has had a rude awakening to a more competitive international arena that is less conducive to the Union’s values and interests. The EU’s vision of global order is now less determined by questions of global representation, formal arrangements and the spread of human rights and market-liberal principles, but aimed at an effective response to the challenges of geopolitical competition. The tripartite approach of the paper was welcomed as innovative by the panel’s discussant, Doctor Hyeyeon Park.”

Geopolitical AI

Paul Timmers (KU Leuven); Joren Bailliere (KU Leuven) Katerina Yordanova (KU Leuven) – presented by Paul Timmer
AI already affects international relations and geopolitics. Firstly, AI-based autonomous weapons are changing kinetic-cyber battlegrounds. Secondly, generative AI gets deployed for misinformation to undermine specific countries or panopticon surveillance to control behaviour of citizens and reduce foreign influence. The geopolitics of AI concerns an extended technology and services stack since AI is becoming a strong driver of strategic autonomy in advanced chips, algorithms, and quantum technologies. The production and delivery of AI shows concentration of power in the hands of a few companies and states. This leads to interdependencies and chokepoints that lend themselves to weaponization in trade control, sanctions, and bi- or multilateral alliances that work on precursors to international law or standardisation. At the same time, AI can advance global common interests and collaboration such as for public health or to fight cyber-crime. This contribution maps the development of AI against both international conflict and international collaboration. It discusses geo-politicisation of AI based on recent insights in multilateralism (such as development of democratic alliances), international law (such as risks to the evolving branch of business and human rights law and the lagging behind of dual-use regulation), and weaponization of interdependencies (such as in strategic autonomy technologies). 

Authors’ comments:
“Geopolitical AI is the use of AI or the AI tech-industrial ecosystem to exert power in international relations. This presentation at the ISA conference by Prof Paul Timmers reported on research into some 300 academic papers on power in international relations (coercive, convincing, conditioning/agenda-setting) when issues related to geopolitical AI are considered. It also discussed how perceptions on AI as a technology (AI-optimist, AI-doomer, etc) relate to these power perceptions. Extreme AI-optimists seem to stress less international relations based on convincing power. This is early-stage research which will be further validated and extended. It is a contribution to understanding and advising on technology and multilateralism and is part of the EU-funded REMIT research project. It is also an early example of using generative AI and large language models as a research tool in political sciences.”

Understanding the debate in US foreign policy regarding the benefits of multilateralism and China

Roberta Haar (Maastricht University) 
Advocates of multilateralism in the US contend that it serves to manage conflicts, prevent escalation, and promote peaceful resolution of disputes. Detractors point to national security concerns and unfair economic competition. In the case of multilateralism and China, critics argue that China’s technological advancements, particularly in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity, pose risks to US national security. Critics further point to China’s state-led industrial policies and practices, such as subsidies, market access restrictions, and forced technology transfers, as unfair. Differing views leads to two coalitions vying for policy adoption: one arguing for a decoupling and the other for engagement. Decoupling involves limiting technological interdependence and reducing reliance on Chinese supply chains. Engagement argues for continued cooperation, believing that integration and collaboration can lead to shared benefits, improved global standards, and the diffusion of technological advancements. This paper utilises the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) to identify policy beliefs held by these coalitions in the Joe Biden administration. It uses media and document analyses to examine specific policy positions and goals, and to measure coalition strengths and limitations. It will also assess the resources and levels of influence of each advocacy coalition involved in shaping US-China policy. 

Author’s comments:
“I was extremely pleased to see a very full room with an attentive audience, who were actively engaging with presentations and the PowerPoint slides.  I was gratified with our panel discussant Hyeyoon Park’s comments, who found my conference paper, “well written, rich in data, and an honour to read.” She further indicated that she had questions regarding shifts in U.S. foreign policy, which were answered by my conference paper. All the presentations for the REMIT pane at ISA were fantastic—again a direct quote by a member of the audience, who had many great questions for the panel.  All in all, a very successful conference!”

 Additionally, REMIT researchers played important roles in two other panels:

Flavia Lucenti acted as a chair in the panel organised by researchers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Institute for European Studies, who share an interest with REMIT on technology and geopolitics.

FB37: Friday 10:30 AM – 12:15 PM Panel Player or Playground? Europe in US-China Competition 
Chair Flavia Lucenti (LUISS University)
Discussant Marianna Lovato (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Institute for European Studies)

Why 9 x 2 = 5 (and why it probably shouldn’t): Bundling Challenges and Bundling Threats in Shifting European Perceptions of China by Mati Ferchen (Yale University Law School Paul Tsai China Center); China’s economic influence in Europe. The case of Central and Eastern Europe by Andreea Budeanu (French Research Institute for East Asia – CNRS) ; Keep your Backbone Straight: China-US-Europe competition in the Semiconductor Industry by Ivan Zaccagnini (LUISS University); Differentiation, binding and strategic autonomy: The Case of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy  by Giulia Tercovich (Vrije Universiteit Brussels); Geopolitics does matter: neoclassical realism as a framework for European security cooperation the Indo-Pacific in times of US-China competition by Gesine Weber (King’s College London) 

REMIT PI Roberta Haar and REMIT Researcher Ville Sinkkonen were invited to present their paper ”The United States and Strategic Technology Governance: Domestic Coalitions, Foreign Policy and Multilateral Cooperation” in the FD45 panel.

FD45: Friday 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM Panel Power, Order and Technological Change: Decoding Digital Doctrines of Key Digital Powers
“The paper uses the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) to unearth three coalitions that currently vie for the adoption of their preferred policies in the realm of strategic technology governance in the United States. In particular, the differences amongst these coalitions, which are termed multilateralists, new isolationists and flexilateralists, heighten when it comes to dealing with China. In the discussion, the employment of the ACF received positive feedback from the discussant, Doctor Filippo Gualtiero Blancato, and the audience, since it opens up the role of sites of socialisation in the construction of coalitions concerned with strategic technology policy, as well as pointing to the importance of paying attention to elite policymaking.”

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