The People's Republic of China is a 360 degree government to which nothing escapes. It has perfected an authoritarianism with an intrusive and massive technology that has total control of the citizens. A rising Chinese wall without cracks that keeps all intruders out, and locks up its population in the name of security.
The Asian giant exercises tight control that is illustrated by voice biometrics programs, cameras that reduce spontaneity to a minimum, social credit systems to find the trusted citizen or large genetic databases to mark the individual from birth. Thus, the Chinese police have the largest national database in the world with one billion faces captured on the streets, airports, subways, hotels, banks, hospitals... Not in vain, with the excuse of terrorism and state financing China has a number of Chinese companies that are leading the global facial and voice recognition business.
The plan proposed by China is 600 million security cameras, which is almost one camera for every two inhabitants. An exponential growth – which capitalized on the Covid – going from 20 million to the current figure in a decade due to the most advanced surveillance system in the world, Sky Net. The Chinese population accounts for 20% of that of the planet, and 54% of the world's cameras are in China.
No blind spots The first photo shows the Chinese facial biometric surveillance system applied to citizens. Photo on the left, at the same point you can see five cameras pointing in all directions. Photo on the right, the Chinese police already have smart sunglasses that provide the history of pedestrians in a matter of seconds
As stated by Fernando Cortiñas, a professor at IE Business School, “they are independent systems that integrate with an autocratic government. We have the hardware with cameras, which can not only be used to control traffic, but you can also equip them with software such as facial biometrics. And to this is added date analytics, with huge databases that, with software, identify one face among millions in order to find a person of interest to the State,” says Cortiñas. The Chinese company Hisense is able to recognize a criminal in a second, recognizing gender, ethnicity and age.
Added to this surveillance repertoire is gait recognition software from the company Watrix, capable of identifying a subject even if his face is not visible, thanks to his way of moving, with an accuracy of 94%. And Chinese police already use facial recognition goggles that are linked to a central database instantly viewing an individual's personal details. The state redlists VIP officials who are untouchable, and can also turn a citizen into an outcast if it wishes by making blacklists.
The case of ethnic minorities stands out, such as the Muslim Uyghurs, which are especially marked by these surveillance mechanisms. With a true techno-authoritarianism in state-of-the-art reeducation camps. Every Uyghur is branded as 'pre-criminal', because technology can not only describe what one does, it also claims to predict behaviour. Chinese citizens asked about this by The New York Times have gone so far as to say that they either grow up without personal space due to overcrowding or have the idea that they expect to have to obey the government.
Using the AI of the large Chinese surveillance contractor Megvii analyzes thousands of hours of video to find unusual patterns that can alert to potential crimes or social protests. The Chinese police state that although its effectiveness is developing, the threat of its existence is already effective in preventing crime. Cortiñas clarifies that this control, although not to such an extreme degree, is already practiced in the West. Banks, insurance or social networks know us better than our mothers, only that the control falls not on the State, but on companies. And he points out that sometimes we prefer to sacrifice our freedom for security or to make life easier. The substantial difference is that it is used to sell things or to oppress.
China goes even further, with genetic surveillance, to determine which citizens will be predisposed to suffer from a specific disease or with the "medical examinations for all" program Amnesty International and others denounced that in Xinjiang blood samples were forcibly collected, blood face, voice recording and fingerprints of 36 million people. Chinese officials are collecting DNA for ethnic genetic sequences. Reuters also revealed that the Chinese genetics company BGI Group in collaboration with the Chinese People's Liberation Army developed a prenatal test that has been used by pregnant women around the world, including Spain, and with these genetic data they have carried out research on populations. The value of the company on the stock market is about 9,000 million dollars.
Added to this hypervigilance is the social credit system applied to people and companies, a kind of points card with rewards and punishments. David Doncel, director of the master's degree in oriental studies at the University of Salamanca, explains that this system tries to measure reliable behavior for the government. «Social credit works in such a way that a citizen can have, for example, a thousand points that vary in relation to his social, economic and political behavior. From making a hotel reservation and not using it, not separating the garbage correctly or giving few 'likes' through the communist party apps can deduct points," Doncel details.
And he adds "the punishment is the withdrawal of basic services such as not being able to go to a doctor, not having access to quality schools, not being able to travel or leave the country or slower network connections." 26 million people have been left without travel tickets, and 13 million citizens have been disqualified. When this credit is applied to companies, they monitor whether the company's partners are reliable. The EU Chamber of Commerce in China has already warned that companies face a swarm of 30 different scores and have to face some 300 requirements to pass it, especially technological ones.
This social credit has been exported to Venezuela. Likewise, all Chinese surveillance and mass control technology has also been exported to other countries in Asia, Africa and South America, including Europe. Thus, in various African countries, Huawei represent 70% of its 4G network. Juan Ignacio Rouyet, director of the master's degree in New Technological Businesses at Unir, clarifies that «China for the planet, puts seeds that will later germinate, but we don't know how. It sells cheaper technology and cameras that have backdoors so they can be hacked by the Chinese manufacturer itself." And a report by the IPVM watchdog research group says China has signed trade deals to export its facial recognition software, smart interrogation tables and torture tiger chairs to Iran.
Another country that is setting up a similar surveillance system established by Cortiñas is Singapore. With Smart Nation, you have cameras, sensors and a big data system to your inhabitants on a large scale, even panic buttons in every house. This deployment is similar to City Brain whose AI controls the Chinese city of Hangzhou, the smartest city in the world. And with the new citizen security law, Hong Kong, the financial heart of China, and with a more cosmopolitan citizenry, will be subject to increased surveillance with the new law.
Added to all this is the idea of the digital yuan, the development of AI judges that are already a reality in China, and quantum computing will make this control even more effective, creating a technological wall that seems increasingly impregnable. In any case, China is the epitome of a surveillance problem that, as Rouyet reminds us, is global: "A balance must be found between security and freedom, total security leads to zero freedom, and total freedom leads to zero security." zero".