Chinese leader Xi Jinping is a powerful enemy of open societies, set to solidify totalitarian control over his people with the aid of artificial intelligence and machine learning, George Soros warned at his annual dinner in Davos, Switzerland, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
The billionaire investor, who used the same occasion last year to criticize the policies of US president Donald Trump and of data-siphoning tech giants like Facebook and Google, said he’s particularly concerned about China’s social credit system, the dystopian project still under development that would grade people’s actions and habits, with rights potentially deducted for bad behavior. Violating traffic laws, for example, might prevent someone from being able to purchase a train ticket.
Xi came to Davos in 2017 and lent support to the globalist agenda, positioning China as an increasingly open country as the US moved toward protectionism. Xi sent his economics adviser Liu He to Davos in his place last year, and also skipped this year’s proceedings. But Xi and his agenda, particularly his domestic one, loomed large this week in the Swiss ski village where executives, government officials, and the occasional celebrity came to hobnob between conference sessions addressing the world’s pressing challenges.
Soros said he wanted to “call attention to the mortal danger facing open societies from the instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can put in the hands of repressive regimes.” Echoing recent concerns raised about China’s use of facial-recognition technology, Soros asked: “How can open societies be protected if these new technologies give authoritarian regimes a built-in advantage? That’s the question that preoccupies me. And it should also preoccupy all those who prefer to live in an open society.”
Tracing his critique of authoritarian governments to his own childhood under Nazi occupation in Hungary, Soros, who is now 88, urged the Trump administration to take a harder stance on China. “My present view is that instead of waging a trade war with practically the whole world, the US should focus on China,” he said.
He continued: “Regrettably, president Trump seems to be following a different course [of making] concessions to China and declare victory while renewing his attacks on US allies. This is liable to undermine the US policy objective of curbing China’s abuses and excesses.”
Soros also said it’s “important to distinguish Xi Jinping’s policies from the aspirations of the Chinese people.” As he delivered the speech, his press office sent reporters two transcripts—one in English, and one in Chinese.