Left-leaning think tank Third Avenue is launching a new initiative to confront China online, emphasizing the need for “digital democracy” to triumph over “digital dictatorship.”
China believes American democracy is too chaotic to win digital competition online, Valerie Shen, vice president of the National Security Program at Third Way, said on Tuesday. But she said America can succeed. Her organization is leading a new U.S.-China digital world order initiative.
“The United States needs to dig deep, figure it out, agree, and execute our own plan to win,” Ms. Shen said at an event at the International Spy Museum in Washington. “The whole government, big tech, business, civil society, yes, even Democrats and Republicans are passing laws together. Better to start as soon as possible.”
The self-proclaimed center-left Third Way envisions a “comprehensive strategy to ensure a democratic digital world order in the 21st century” that will push policymakers to implement it. The group lists several federal lawmakers as honorary co-chairs on its website, including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kirsten Sinema of Arizona, Gary Peters of Michigan , Jenny Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware.
Despite the Democratic seat, the group said its initiative would strive for bipartisanship and emphasized the need to instill American values in cyberspace on areas such as free speech, privacy, human rights, truth and accountability. In one example of its GOP outreach, former Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry attended Tuesday’s briefing.
The group also has allies in the Biden administration. Officials from the Defense Department, State Department and National Security Council spoke at the briefing.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration enlisted more than 60 countries to join its “Future of the Internet Manifesto,” which aims to advance a “political commitment” to a positive vision for the internet and digital technology, according to the State Department.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ruth Berry said the administration is not seeking to decouple from China.
“The U.S. and China will have to deal with each other for the foreseeable future, that being said, but in certain areas that are critical to U.S. national and economic security, the U.S. will work with its partners and allies to do what we have Protect yourself,” Ms Berry said at the Third Way event. “I think it really falls within the idea of a conservation and promotion strategy.”
Third Way isn’t the only think tank emphasizing a fight against China in the digital realm. The Brookings Institution will host White House officials on Wednesday to explain the Manifesto for the Future of the Internet, which officials helped write.