China’s Race Towards a Digital Surveillance State
China will soon add to its arsenal of surveillance tactics a system that allows the government to track citizens’ cars.
Starting July 1st, citizens will be encouraged to install a radio-frequency chip on their windshield when they register a car. Compliance will be mandatory on all new vehicles starting in January of next year.
The system will utilize radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips similar to the devices we use for automated toll roads. But instead of paying a toll, the chip will alert roadside stations of a car’s location.
China already uses video images of license plates to track cars, but the RFID system offers faster information-processing and is able to track cars during fog and other weather conditions. The new system will also be able to identify vehicles even when fake license plates are used.
The car tracking system “would certainly be the largest single program managed by one government in the world,” says Manuel Moreno, President of a San Diego-based company that manufactures RFID technology.
The Chinese government insists the vehicle tracking program will improve traffic congestion and cut down on terrorist attacks, but opponents worry about the surveillance implications for a country that sells nearly 30 million vehicles each year.
“It’s kind of like another tool in the toolbox for mass-surveillance,” says Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch. “To be able to track vehicles would definitely add substantial location details to the chain of data points that they already have.”
Beijing’s surveillance efforts already include:
- Facial recognition technology at stoplights
- Millions of CCTV cameras
- Infiltration of telecom companies
- A ‘social credit system’ that bans citizens from planes and trains if they don’t act like good little communists.
- Algorithms that monitor purchases and reading habits to look for suspicious behavior
In July 2017, China announced that it intends to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2025.
“It’s all happening in the backdrop of this pretty authoritarian government,” notes Ben Green, a technology expert at Harvard University. “It’s really hard to imagine that the primary use case is not law enforcement surveillance and other forms of social control.”
Other devices in the works include a machine that scans footprints and a device that can crack iPhone passwords. Both gadgets were on display in May at the China International Exhibition on Police Equipment in Beijing.
“China’s security forces are increasingly using technology to monitor and punish any behavior that runs counter to the ruling communist party,” says Reuters reporter Pei Li. Officials already have facial recognition sunglasses they can use to identify suspects and phone scanners that can “clean the data out of your phone and detect any content that is terrorism- or violence-related.”
These scanners are already being used in the Xinjiang province to track the Uighurs – a minority Muslim population which in 2017 was banned from using its own language in schools. According to reports, officials in Xinjiang have detained over 1 million Christians and Muslims in “re-education camps.”
Human rights activists are rightly concerned by these reports and by the implications of China’s increasing surveillance efforts on a population that can’t stay off its smartphones.
“The rapid digitization of the Chinese people’s financial and social interactions is producing unprecedented amounts of personal data,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “This information remains subject to analysis and scrutiny by the Communist Party, which aims for an unprecedented level of control over Chinese citizens.”
Author’s Note: China is rapidly moving towards a complete surveillance state, where leaders are able to control the people and therefore control the wealth.
This whole process is moving incredible fast, and with little criticism from the international community. China is using US tech and markets to generate wealth to oppress its people. If this behavior continues, which it will, there will be a major rift between China and the rest of the world.
In the meantime, China is more than happy to sell its tech to other countries that want more control over their populations. If a country can’t afford the tech, China gives it a loan and then uses debt diplomacy to gain control over territory and resources in that country.
Editor’s note: This is the reason we need to keep our lead over China. A China dominated world means a totalitarian dictatorship, with zero freedom, zero free speech, zero liberty of any kind.