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Geopolitics of Smart Cities 
Expression of Soft Power and New Order

Executive Summary

As civilian technologies, urban technologies are most often considered neutral and relatively harmless. Though, and because of the recent geopolitical transformations, urban technologies are more and more weaponized and used as instruments of soft power. They are becoming geopolitical and strategic assets in international conflicts. For this purpose, States and transnational organizations are deploying important means to massively export and influence the development of these technologies. In this context, as well as because of the growing USA-China rivalry, this report argues that “Smart Cities’ ‘ and “Safe Cities” are actually strategic narratives respectively elaborated by American stakeholders and China to win this UrbanTech War and become leaders in this field. Lastly, this report also highlights the role of the European Union in this geopolitical confrontation as well as its effort to develop its own strategic narrative around cities and urban technologies.


This paper is a collaboration between UrbanAI and AdalanAI. The preliminary results have been presented in the Hague Responsible AI Conference on May 13, 2022, in Paris at PCA-STREAM’s office at the specially dedicated event on June 30, 2022 and in SciencesPo Paris on October 12, 2022. We want to thank the Hague Responsible AI Conference, PCA-STREAM and Sciences Po Paris for their support throughout the writing process and for the opportunities to present the work at the events. We also want to thank the co-organizers and and speakers of those events for their valuable insights and their continuous support: Philippe Chiambaretta, Etienne Riot, Tommaso Vitale, Gaspard Koenig, Ilaria MILAZZO, Marie Barraud, Beatriz Botero, Antoine Courmont, Raphael Languillon.

We would also like to show our gratitude to the experts for sharing their pearls of wisdom with us during the course of our research.

Lastly, we thank Leonard for assistance with the elaboration of the report and Pierre-Marie Gouédard for valuable and constructive suggestions during the planning and development of this report.

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