SpyCast 11.15.22
Ep 564 | 11.15.22

"Trafficking Data: The Digital Struggle – with China" with Aynne Kokas

Show Notes


Aynne Kokas (Website; Twitter) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss the American struggle with China over data. She is an award-winning author. 

What You’ll Learn


  • Tik-Tok and Chinese intelligence
  • Silicon Valley and Big Tech’s role in the data wars
  • The intelligence struggle between the world’s two largest economies
  • How to secure your data or your companies


  • Links between the natural environment and the data environment
  • Individual vs. collective behavior

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

This week’s guest is Aynne Kokas, author of the new book Trafficking Data. 

With huge increases in literacy and the information revolution brought, we are in a technologically enabled world of data overload. This data, of course, can be harvested for intelligence insights by intelligence agencies. 

Aynne helps us prise apart how the data we generate is used, misused, or abused in the context of the relationship between the US and China. 

Aynne is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. For over twenty years she has researched the US and Chinese as a consultant, professor, Fulbright scholar, and employee of Fortune 500 companies. She is also the author of the award-winning book Hollywood Made in China


Aynne studied filmmaking and acting at Beijing Film Academy and directed her own short films in Mandarin, which she speaks fluently. It is located in the Haidian district in northwestern Beijing, which is a powerhouse of China’s IT industry as well as of its higher education sector. It is there you will find Baidu and Beijing Normal University, ByteDance and Peking University, and Lenovo and Tsinghua University – among many, many others. 

Quote of the Week

"Silicon Valley has grown powerful through extracting user data and through a system where users are not really able to control or understand where their data is being used…it becomes an even bigger problem in trade with China, where the Chinese government has established a clear system for grabbing that data… there's very little that countries like the US without strong tech regulation can do…because this is how our system works…there needs to be a really massive reevaluation of what the role of the tech sector is in our society in the context of global competition with China." – Aynne Kokas.


*Andrew’s Recommendation*

  • “XIII: The Use of Spies”


*Beginner Resources*


  • Spymasters: CIA Directors, C. Whipple (S&S, 2020)
  • Duty, R. Gates (Vintage, 2015) [Def. Sec. memoir]
  • A World Transformed, Bush & Scowcroft (Knopf, 1998)
  • From the Shadows, R. Gates (S&S, 1996) [CIA memoir]
  • Power & Principle, Z. Brzezinski (FS&G, 1983) [Gates was Z.B.’s Special Asst. at the NSC during the Carter era]





Primary Sources

*Wildcard Resource*