China Exporting Its Surveillance Tech And Philosophy To Other Countries, Helped By Equipment Donations
from the laboratory-for-comprehensive-security-systems dept
It will probably come as zero surprise to Techdirt readers to learn the following:
China’s state surveillance apparatus is trying out a new tool in one of its favorite test beds, the restive region of Xinjiang.
The Muslim-dominated villages on China’s western frontier are testing facial-recognition systems that alert authorities when targeted people venture more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) beyond designated “safe areas,” according to a person familiar with the project. The areas comprise individuals’ homes and workplaces, said the person, who requested anonymity to speak to the media without authorization.
As that Bloomberg report rightly notes, this further extension of the Chinese state’s surveillance system is taking place in Xinjiang, which acts as a kind of test-bed for moves of this kind, many of which are then rolled out to the rest of the country. That’s clearly terrible news for people in China, but superficially doesn’t directly concern the rest of the world. However, a story in the South China Morning Post reveals that China’s surveillance tech and philosophy are now appearing in countries outside China:
Ecuador has introduced a security system using monitoring technology from China, including facial recognition, as it tries to bring down its crime rate and improve emergency management, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
A network of cameras has been installed across the South American nation’s 24 provinces — keeping watch on its population of 16.4 million people — using a system known as the ECU911 Integrated Security Service, Xinhua reported.
The article explains that experiments are being run to turn footage from Chinese surveillance cameras into data at the Laboratory for Comprehensive Security Systems, which is located in the ECU911 headquarters in Ecuador’s capital. China had a hand in that, too:
State-owned China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC) was involved in setting up the laboratory. CEIEC is a subsidiary of China Electronics Corporation (CEC), one of the country’s largest defence contractors.
CEC’s reach extends far beyond China?s homeland security, and the system in Ecuador is not its first project in South America. In Brazil, CEC was involved in using Chinese technology to monitor environmental risks in the Amazon rainforest. But in Bolivia and Venezuela, as in Ecuador, its projects are to do with public security.
Soft power is key focus for China at the moment, particularly as part of its One Belt, One Road mega infrastructure project. Another way China spreads its influence around the world is by donating surveillance equipment, as happened in Ecuador. It’s a shrewd move. Local governments can say that it would be foolish to turn down generous gifts from such a powerful nation, and that once accepted, it would be a waste not to use the equipment. China can claim that it is “helping” other nations improve their internal security, while establishing a beachhead for Chinese companies that manufacture the surveillance equipment. The latter can then build on that to win further sales — and to help spread Chinese-style surveillance yet further.