DAVOS – Billionaire investor George Soros sharply criticized China’s president, Xi Jinping, charging that Open Democratic Societies face a “mortal danger” from regimes using machine-learning and artificial-intelligence technology to reinforce one-party rule.
“China isn’t the only authoritarian regime in the world, but it’s undoubtedly the wealthiest, strongest and most developed in machine learning and artificial intelligence. This makes Xi Jinping the most dangerous opponent of those who believe in the concept of open society” Soros said, in remarks prepared for delivery in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, where world leaders, business executives and celebrities have gathered for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Soros said his worries extend beyond China, centering on the fear that “the combination of repressive regimes with IT monopolies endows those regimes with a built-in advantage over open societies. The instruments of control are useful tools in the hands of authoritarian regimes, but they pose a mortal threat to open societies.”
Soros focused on China’s plans for a “social credit” system that tracks each citizen’s social and financial behavior, producing a score that would be used to determine what services they are entitled to use, which he called “frightening and abhorrent.”
“The social credit system is not yet fully operational, but it’s clear where it’s heading. It will subordinate the fate of the individual to the interests of the one-party state in ways unprecedented in history,” he said.
Soros, who has been sharply critical of President Donald Trump, said the U.S., rather than “waging a trade war with practically the whole world,” should focus on China and should crack down on firms like ZTE and Huawei, arguing that “if these companies came to dominate the 5G market, they would present an unacceptable security risk for the rest of the world.”
Trump instead seems to be following a different course, he said, making concessions to China and declaring victory “while renewing his attacks on U.S. allies.”
Soros said hopes must be pinned “on the Chinese people, and especially on the business community and political elite willing to hold up the Confucian tradition,” but argued that those outside China shouldn’t remain passive.
“The reality is that we are in a Cold War that threatens to turn into a hot one,” he said. “On the other hand, if Xi and Trump were no longer in power, an opportunity would present itself to develop greater cooperation between the two cyber superpowers.”
By William Watts