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Matthew Robertson, October 11, 2018     China’s rapidly expanding interest in researching and applying artificial intelligence has been widely noted. Last year, the Chinese government published a plan to become a world leader in the field by the end of the next decade; billions of dollars are being funnelled into AI startups; and China is competing head-to-head with industry in the United States on the cutting edge of the field. What makes AI developments in China so different from those in the United States, however, is that as with any technology, if it can be used by the Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its grip on power or further its panoptistate, it will. This is almost a truism, of course, and military adoption of […]


Matthew Robertson, August 23, 2018   “Our goal is to make sure that any user facing an increased risk of online attacks enrolls in the Advanced Protection Program.”  — Dario Salice, Advanced Protection Product Manager at Google.        Journalists and dissidents involved in Chinese affairs are accustomed to every so often receiving a pop-up banner on their Gmail from Google informing them that “state-sponsored attackers” may have been attempting to gain access to their accounts. To guard against such intrusions, Google suggests signing up for its Advanced Protection Program. The Advanced Protection Program involves using a pair of security keys that can be purchased on Amazon. The problem? Google recommends a product — the Feitian MultiPass FIDO Security Key — manufactured in China, by […]


A few days ago, it was announced that Liu Zhijun, former head of the Railway Ministry was stripped of his party title as a result of misconduct. In the Western press it was said that his graft involved hundreds of millions of RMB (over 800 million), and yet People’s Daily (PD) has never hinted at an amount. With this small spark, I decided to do a case study of PD’s reports on corruption in China. The Party’s mouth piece is left in a precarious situation, a lack of reporting on corruption would give the people the impression that nothing is being done to confront the very visible problem. Reporting too much though gives the impression that every gov’t official is corrupt, and the Party is […]


I think to many observers of China, People’s Daily (PD) has little worth outside of restating the Party line. They pretend that it is a reconstruction of the Ministry of Truth from 1984, whose only purpose lies in creating “truth.” Some even go so far as to argue that reading and quoting such a paper does nothing but affirm the Party’s leadership. In fact, bloggers, activists, and dissidents should be reading the People’s Daily, and, as I’ll show, often the most damning evidence against the Party’s rule can be found within its pages. Initially, I too was skeptical of the integrity of People’s Daily, but linked to it regularly, assuming that even the strongest proponents of China would find it difficult to argue with facts […]


Yesterday we looked briefly at the way copyrights are ignored in China, and today we will be diving deeper into the fascinating world of Chinese knockoffs. In China these knockoffs are called Shanzhai, and there are even references to a shanzhai culture. Some of the more well-known products are the “blockburry”, the “A-Pad” and the “O-Phone” (just for fun, a website that sells them). These devices are often a fraction of the price of the originals, and sometimes they will offer more features. For example an O-phone might be able to use many of the I-phone apps as well as Google Android apps. Other times they might add a camera or some flashing lights (sadly not a joke). The argument for these products is that […]


I think a lot of us picture China as a place where the people are completely ignorant of the outside world due to heavy censorship (yesterday’s post on the topic). Coming to China often does little to change this perception, as people will smile politely and tell you that everything has always been fine in Tibet, or that Tiananmen Square’s only remarkable feature is that it is the largest public square in the world. That is why I take so much pleasure in learning about the subversive corners of the Chinese internet, where the feelings people hide in public come pouring out for the world to read. Some simply ignore the danger of upsetting the government. Little is known about the exact methodology used to […]


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