Aynne Kokas

Fast Facts

  • Director, UVA East Asia Center
  • Non-resident scholar, Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Fellow in the National Committee on United States-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program
  • Expertise on U.S.-China relations, cybersecurity, media industry

Areas Of Expertise

  • Foreign Affairs
  • Asia
  • Domestic Affairs
  • Media and the Press
  • Science and Technology

Aynne Kokas is the C.K. Yen Professor at the Miller Center, director of UVA's East Asia Center, and a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. Kokas’ research examines Sino-U.S. media and technology relations. Her award-winning book Trafficking Data: How China Is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty (Oxford University Press, October 2022) argues that exploitative Silicon Valley data governance practices help China build infrastructures for global control. Her award-winning first book Hollywood Made in China (University of California Press, 2017) argues that Chinese investment and regulations have transformed the U.S. commercial media industry, most prominently in the case of media conglomerates’ leverage of global commercial brands. 

Kokas is a non-resident scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a fellow in the National Committee on United States-China Relations’ Public Intellectuals Program.

She was a Fulbright Scholar at East China Normal University and has received fellowships from the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, Japan’s Abe Fellowship, and other international organizations. Her writing and commentary have appeared globally in more than 50 countries and 15 languages. In the United States, her research and writing appear regularly in media outlets including CNBC, NPR’s MarketplaceThe Washington Post, and Wired. She has testified before the Senate Finance Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Aynne Kokas News Feed

While there is no evidence that the Chinese government is actually using self-driving cars to spy on Americans or has access to the companies’ military-grade maps of U.S. cities, it’s clear that the Chinese government is developing a legal framework that connects company data to the government, so that as technologies progress, there will already be a structure in place for data transfer, said Aynne Kokas.
Aynne Kokas Fortune
“It does an address an issue that we do face within in a US context—the problem is it only addresses a small part of that issue. And by only addressing a small part of the weakness of US data governance, there are a lot of other apps or platforms that could fill the same role or very similar roles that TikTok is playing," says Aynne Kokas.
Aynne Kokas ABC News
"But the TikTok bill retains a problematic focus on individuals—individual firms and certain kinds of people. That focus risks entrenching an overall U.S. policy that targets specific companies and people instead of systematically reviewing the safety of different categories of technology products."
Aynne Kokas Foreign Affairs
A common sense alternative would be to create guardrails that apply to all firms operating in the U.S. That would honor Congress’ mandate to regulate commerce among states that currently have widely varying laws governing data.
Aynne Kokas LA Times
"The U.S. regulatory environment is highly permissive and allows for profoundly addictive apps to emerge.”
Aynne Kokas ABC News
“In the unlikely event of a successful ByteDance divestment in the United States, it is equally unlikely that the Chinese government would allow it.”
Aynne Kokas Foreign Policy