The Digital Cold War: Where does Indonesia stand?  

Artificial Intelligence, commonly known as AI, along with other digital technologies, poses substantial concerns in the 21st century. AI, while still a relatively new concept, continues to grow and evolve with capabilities that remain largely unknown. A new dimension has now emerged, a “Digital Cold War”1 between China and the United States. Stakes in this modern-day war are high. Some experts claim that China’s AI development currently lags behind the United States2, yet it holds a distinct advantage in having longstanding investments in surveillance technologies. For good or bad, this investment places China far ahead of other nations, “from lining city streets with surveillance cameras to using facial recognition to monitor paper use in public toilets”2. Their commitment to cutting-edge surveillance technology, alongside widespread use of platforms like WeChat, has granted China access to a wealth of data that is unmatched. AI is only as good as the data available to it. With a population four times larger than that of the United States, China’s digitalised society, characterised by open data sharing could have the potential to overtake Western capabilities1.


The race for global dominance could force states to choose between technologies. The World Security Report 2023 highlights AI as the most significant area of technological investment in the Asia Pacific region. Investment in surveillance and monitoring systems, AI machine learning and AI-assisted threat intelligence all exceed the global average3 (p.28). Indonesia’s openness towards AI reflects its recognition of the potential resources and advancements this technology can bring. However, despite Indonesia’s efforts to maintain a neutral stance, AI could present significant issues in the future, potentially pitching the nation between two global powers.

[1] Hermant, Taneja. & Fareed, Zakaria. (2023), “AI and the New Digital Cold War”, Harvard Business Review, September 6. Retrieved: war#:~:text=The%20Digital%20Cold%20War%20will,decisive%20technology%20in%20this%20arena.

[2] Tobin, Meaghan. (2023), “Will China overtake the U.S. on AI? Probably not. Here’s why”, The Washington Post, July 6. Retrieved:

[3] Allied Universal. (2023). “World Security Report 2023”. Allied Universal, London.


WeWork Noble House,
30th Floor Jl. Dr. Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung
Kav. E 4.2 No. 2 Jakarta 12950

Tel: (+62-21) 5012 7887

© Copyright 2023 CastleAsia – All Rights Reserved