Coronavirus exposes China's surveillance state

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In all these stories about China’s mass surveillance, I always wonder what the false positive rate is. Nobody ever talks about that. As someone who has worked in machine learning (though not in facial recognition specifically), I can say it has to be high in the use cases described. That guy they accused of breaking curfew because he was identified even with a mask on? What about the other 50 people who were falsely accused and had no way to defend themselves because the authorities have been sold that the technology is infallible? That might be the scariest thing about modern AI-based panopticons for me.


I agree, and this fellow may just be a Chinese shill talking up this (fake story?) to scare others to conform. I think in the long run, the Chinese dictatorship will harm the country as the smart educated will flee the country for a free life elsewhere!

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It’s rather presumptive to imply that the Chinese citizens who won’t be able to migrate aren’t as ‘smart or educated’ as those who’ll have the means and resources to relocate.

Entirely uprooting one’s entire life and living abroad is difficult and expensive, and not a viable option for everyone.

Furthermore, there’s the inherent assumption in your comment that citizens of China will be able to easily migrate to a different country, which would readily accept them with open arms.



I’m sure the US would welcome the top 10% of their population with open arms.

Let’s see…150 million people? They’re screwed.


I wasn’t even thinking of the US as a possibility, given what a complete shitshow our immigration policies and “standards” are.


The US will only consider if they buy two overpriced Trump condos.


It’s difficult, expensive, and requires a certain adventurous mindset (all of which is why I’m still in my godforsaken fascist country) and more often than not it requires leaving your family behind. Even if you take your spouse & kids you can’t just take your grandparents, etc. And that’s an issue not simply for cultural reasons but because, well, assuming you love your parents/etc. it’s something a lot of people are just not willing to just leave them behind. Especially with a system like China’s - who knows what’s going to happen to your parents’ social credit when their child emigrates!

And there’s also the fact that, well, not everyone cares about the same things. Today’s young generations of Chinese people grew up - and grow up - getting propaganda hammered into their heads from basically birth, and regard surveillance/etc. as just how things are. Also, the system is set up in a way that as long as you conform and are a “good citizen” you’re rewarded. So basically if you’re smart and educated you likely have a good job, you’re financially stable, and if you don’t care a lot about politics you’re likely getting by just fine and don’t understand what other people’s problem is. We have this here in Hungary - things are shit and the country is basically fascist at this point, but the upper middle class is “taken care of” in certain ways, so people who are apolitical or have right-wing/nationalist leanings, and have a well-paying job, have precious little incentive to go against the system. (Until they get sick and face the incredible state the healthcare system is in…)

A while ago the star of the upcoming Mulan live action movie spoke up against the Hong Kong protests, and people all over the English speaking internet were so quick to speculate that maybe she’s being forced, maybe they’re holding her family hostage, etc… but thing is, it’s a lot more likely that she genuinely believed what she said. She grew up being fed propaganda, and she’s wealthy and well-situated enough not to experience most drawbacks of the Chinese system, in fact she actually benefits from it. Why wouldn’t she find it upsetting that people in Hong Kong are being violent in protests against the system that, from how she sees it, is working just fine?


Or what happens to family left behind if you do something public that China doesn’t like?


Yes, I know; from personal experience.

Just ‘getting up and leaving’ is not a viable option for most people, for many valid reasons.


The best thing any person of conscience can do is refuse to engage with the Chinese totalitarian state – financially, morally, culturally.

The problem is that American business and government LIKE dealing with a totalitarian state to make their shit/buy our debt.

If a group of Chinese expats/American Citizens had the geographic concentration Cuban expats do in Florida, that might change it. Not that would happen.


One should also consider what happens if this surveilance by the Chinese government helps in containing the disease. Then any time in the future someone complains they can point and say “Look how many more people would have died without our government control”.


5g, baby! We’ll all be totally f*cked when they roll out 5g.

The best thing any person of conscience can do is refuse to engage with the Chinese totalitarian state – financially, morally, culturally.

Then show us your how-to, pls. Thanks in advance.


Ai Weiwei would agree. Complicated does not even begin to describe his trajetory, and he’s a famous artist.

Where to? “Maybe I’ll disappear in Cambridge!” Will he go back to China? “I want to. My mum’s old and I want to see her. I’ve not seen her for a few years.” But he worries that he may be arrested or have his passport confiscated.

It’s pretty heartbreaking. I had higher hopes for Berlin/Berliners.

Imagine being a regular unfamous unwealthy person trying to leave behind [extended or other] family, language, culture and obligations for a new nation and hopefully some kind of job and housing.


That will be the narrative that the powers that be in China will be trying to push, but it’s abundantly clear that the outbreak has got to the stage that it has because of the pervasive culture of secrecy in China.

The cover-up of the initial outbreak, the repression of whistleblowers, and the under-reporting of the initial facts about the outbreak have all contributed to the spread of the virus and the deaths that we have seen. Authoritarian secrecy kills, and this is now obvious to all.

Also, the pervasive secrecy and lying about the smallest matters to save face has eroded any and all credibility in official sources. The rest of the world is basing its response to this crisis on what information is coming out of China, but the real situation could be a lot worse. There have been articles such as the one below coming out, which don’t have solid backing, but when the official record is so unreliable, then who knows what is true?

Finally, the outbreak has the capacity to interact with another recent China story- The ongoing repression in Xinjiang. The rapidly constructed detention facilities there for the “re-education” of the local population are overcrowded, with the people imprisoned there sleeping in high-density dormitories. If this virus spreads into those facilities, they present the chance for a massive and sudden spread of the disease in a vulnerable population.


While most people in Germany are friendly to foreigners, there are some vicious xenophobes there, just like in nearly every other country. Some of my friends were asked to stop speaking Polish between themselves by the waiter in the restaurant. Some were explicitly told that the hotel where they planned to stay was not welcoming people of Polish nationality. Two of my former work colleagues were stopped and aggressively interrogated by the police officers, whom they had to convice that they were not going to work in Germany. Some were also chased out of the store when shopkeeper heard the Polish language. In Austria when I was sightseeing Vienna with some (now former) friends, some random person on the subway platform started mocking us because we spoke Polish between ourselves. Having said that most of my experiences there were positive.


Yep, can confirm this as well… Every country has its share of xenophobes, and when it comes to Europe ethnic divides based on stereotypes and just plain old xenophobia, are very much present and strong, especially when it comes to West vs East. I’ve experienced it myself (and that was before people, somewhat justifiably, started looking at you weird when they learned you’re from Hungary), friends who live in the UK and Germany have experienced it, etc. Not that most people are like that, not at all - but the assholes are always too loud and ruin it for everyone. So thank god for the warm and positive people. A friend of mine was defended by an entire pub in Leeds when a patron started going on about how he and “his kind” should go back to “Poland or Bulgaria or whatever” instead of being a parasite and whatnot. (Ironically that friend had a pretty high level job there at the time.)

(By the way, I really wish that the discourse about xenophobia on the English language internet wasn’t so US-centric. I suppose it’s unavoidable, but it also drowns out a lot of voices, and distorts a lot of issues, by looking at issues and interpreting them by predominantly American contexts.)


I mean depends on what the average Chinese citizen thinks is scarier, being tracked by their state or seeing of a horrible virus.
The thing with living in a totalitarian state is that no one thinks they have anything to fear as long as those targeted are sufficiently dangerous or abhorrent. Soviets use to conveniently find that any dissident they disappeared turned out to be a secret Nazi.

I’m pretty sure 100% of the comments in this and every single other online forum post are being made with products that directly support Chinese totalitarianism as all our connected devices are either completely or mostly made there. As good as a chinese boycot would be it is not possible in the US. We are spoiled brats that will point our finger at the repressive actions of that socialist market dictatorship but never do anythyng of substance that would inconvenience us much less cost us money.