Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, complicit in turning China into an Orwellian state

By Pushkar Sinha
New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) A report by Foreign Policy Magazine has revealed that Chinese Tech Titans are assisting the Communist Party of China (CPC) in establishing a surveillance state that cracks down on Political dissent.

These goliaths–Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu-are armed with supercomputers that crunch terabytes of data. Facial recognition tech adds new meaning to images provided by the ever-ubiquitous surveillance cameras, enabling the party-state to nip in the bud any signs of brewing dissent.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that police outposts have been embedded at workplaces. These CPC moles are at the frontline of ensuring a regular flow of information as requisitioned by the authorities.

The data that is sought ranges from identity of people posting opinions against the views of CPC on social media to GPS coordinates of activists on the run. Then this is used to tame whose who do not follow the diktats of the CPC oligarchs.

The Wall Street Journal further states that activist Hu Jia was interrogated by state security agents after he bought a slingshot online through WeChat’s mobile payment feature. Without evidence, the agents claimed Hu had bought the slingshot to destroy the cameras placed near his apartment.

It is pertinent to note that Chinese companies are not allowed to disagree with requests for information by the police authorities unlike their western counterparts. An independent body to approve and review requests- along with set procedures like court warrant to gain access to an individual’s private data is conspicuously absent.

Another report by WSJ reports that China has also put in a place a draconian cybersecurity law that requires internet companies to block unfavourable view of the CPC and its leaders, along with foreign articles that are critical of China. Thus, a heavily whitewashed image of China and CPC are projected both at home and abroad.

The cloud computing prowess possessed by these tech giants is used to identify people of interest. Their movements are then tracked to restrict them from gathering at political events. Unfettered by public furore or concerns regarding privacy, sophisticated cameras are being installed at various security checkpoints equipped with facial recognition technology. This spectre of an Orwellian nightmare serves a nefarious purpose of cudgelling people into conformity.

A report by South China Morning Post States that China is also aiming at implementing a National Social Credit System that will enable it to provide rating to citizens based on their financial status and their behaviour in public places. This grading will further enable China in its malicious campaign in segregating the population according to its whims and fancies.

These tech giants are also complicit with state machinery in furthering China’s diabolical plans of international espionage. Ministry of State Security (MSS), the Chinese intelligence agency is using their data processing capabilities to sift through copious reams of digital information to help identify foreign undercover operatives. These operatives are identified, then tortured with solitary confinement practiced as routine. China is also developing capabilities to even catch such people in other countries through its agents under its Foxhunt programme.

Chinese hackers have continuously targeted United States’ data reservoirs. Cyberattacks on Anthem, Marriot, Equifax and Department of Personnel have been reported by New York Times. Since China does not have commercial capabilities to process the data in-house, it has been outsourcing the same to these tech giants to gain an insight into the American Government. The firms, although reluctant to deal with national security and ideological expectations, have acquiesced to the request.

The datasets stolen by China is an attempt to undermine foreign economies by putting them under severe financial strain. They are used to identify companies that are on the verge of a financial crisis. Then, a subsidiary of one of these tech giants masquerading as a customer approaches them with a large order. The order is then cancelled at the last minute, causing the shares of the company to sink fast. The tech company then swoops like a hawk and offers a hefty buy-out to the struggling company, portraying itself as a saviour while being responsible for the entire crisis.

The symbiotic relationship between these tech giants and Chinese intelligence agencies has caused an internal strife. The Cybersecurity system requires backdoors in every software and system owned by tech companies so that the data can be accessed by the Chinese government with ease. These backdoors make it easier for an attacker to gain access of the systems and compromise security.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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