Posts Tagged ‘Great Firewall’

HBO website and comedian John Oliver censored in China

June 24, 2018

It was one Winnie the Pooh joke too far.

After mocking censors working over time to delete comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the cartoon bear, comedian John Oliver and now the website of TV giant HBO have fallen victim to China’s censorship machine.

Image result for Winnie the Pooh, Xi Jinping

Chinese authorities blocked HBO’s website in China, just days after Oliver took Xi to task, anti-censorship and monitoring group GreatFire.org said on Saturday.

HBO joins a long list of Western media outlets that have had their websites blocked in China including The New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter.

“China: the country responsible for huge technological advances but it still can’t seem to get pandas to f***,” Oliver opened the episode of “Last Week Tonight” that is causing the problems.

Those technological advances include draconian surveillance and censorship measures which appear to have made HBO and Oliver their latest victims.

Oliver’s name and that of the show he hosts were censored on China’s popular twitter like Weibo.

Image result for emperor for life Xi, photos

“Send failure” Weibo returned when AFP attempted to post Oliver’s name.

“Content is illegal!” the service said.

YouTube, which also airs “Last Week Tonight”, has long been blocked in China.

Oliver’s segment dug into Xi’s distaste at comparisons to the self-described “bear of very little brain” and introduced viewers to repressive changes underway in the world’s most populous country.

Chinese netizens have often compared Xi to A.A. Milne’s most famous creation, something that censors have been quick to purge inside the Great Firewall.

Image result for Great Firewall, pictures

The segment also recounted recent headlines: from Xi becoming “emperor for life” to a corruption purge that targeted his political rivals, to a crackdown on freedom of expression, human rights, and religion, to an ongoing suppression and imprisonment campaign against China’s Uighur ethnic minority.

“Xi is actively removing the post-Mao guardrails that were put in place,” Oliver said of changes to China’s constitution which allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

“China is becoming more authoritarian just as it has major plans for expansion onto the world stage,” Oliver said as the segment neared an end.

“The era of do as we say may be dawning.”

AFP

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Trump Tariffs Are Just a Blip in the March of Free Trade — In The Longer Run, China is The Greatest Risk

June 8, 2018

Is the age of free trade coming to an end? It sure feels that way, with the U.S. levying tariffs against its allies, the Chinese not budging from their mercantilist system, Brexit on track, and authoritarian governments on the rise. The good news, however, lies outside the realm of politics: The long-run trend is one of greater interconnectedness, at least for traditional goods and services.

Dawn will come again.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Here’s why I am still (mostly) an optimist about the future of trade.

First, the changing nature and greater complexity of international supply chains makes effective protectionism hard to pull off. To cite a simple example, foreign steel is an input into many American products sold abroad, such as cars. If tariffs or quotas restrict the importation of foreign steel, American automakers will face higher costs, and they will find it harder to export. Policy makers might like to think that tariffs can target foreign interests with precision, but that has never been less the case than now.

Second, we have been down this protectionist road before, in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan, who imposed limitations on Japanese auto imports and tariffs on Japanese computers and televisions. In 2002, President George W. Bush imposed tariffs on steel imports. Whatever you think of those policies, they did not reverse the longer-run trend toward more cross-border trade. Over time, the economics proved more potent than the politics, and those restrictions were removed.

Third, and perhaps most important, human beings around the world are tied together more closely than ever before. In particular, migrants from emerging economies now live in many different countries in unprecedented numbers.

Why does this matter? Well, the numbers on international trade suggest that distance is usually a greater barrier to trade than are tariffs, a result from “the gravity model.” To put it concretely, the U.S. trades far more with Canada than with Australia, even though those two countries have broadly the same economic profile. The reason isn’t mainly about the costs of transportation (water transport is pretty cheap), but rather the U.S. has better networks with Canada than with Australia. Canadians are more likely to have school experience, business contacts or friends in the U.S., and vice versa, because of proximity. That encourages subsequent business ties and trade.

A lot of the recent cross-border migration is planting a hugely positive, pro-trade legacy that will yield dividends for decades to come. The Chinese, Indians, Nigerians and many other groups around the world will continue to build economic connections, even when the countries involved aren’t always so geographically close. I expect the positive trade gains from these connections and personal networks will outweigh the downside from some higher tariffs in the meantime. Ultimately the opportunities are there, and the biggest problem is the lack of human talent to execute on them.

I do think there is a major threat to free trade today, but hardly anyone is talking about it, at least not in the U.S.

I am not so much an optimist about free trade in China. The Chinese government may make marginal concessions to limit the scope of a trade war, but I don’t think it will let in the major American tech companies anytime soon. Their government obsesses over controlling the flow of information, and if only for national security reasons it won’t liberalize technology or communications. More than ever before, information flows and trade flows are inseparable.

The internet shows some signs of breaking down into separate networks, connected only imperfectly. The Chinese “Great Firewall” has proved robust, and recently the European Union has moved toward creating its own set of stringent privacy and data protection laws, such as the new General Data Protection Regulation standards. Sitting here in Norway for a conference, I find I am unable to access many American websites, such as the Chicago Tribune, which are not (yet?) GDPR-compliant. There is thus a danger that the internet will become carved into three or more separate systems, to the detriment of trade, data flows and eventually personal  connections.

Even on this issue, I am relatively optimistic because I think markets will find ways to connect the various balkanized networks, more or less seamlessly, perhaps using more advanced versions of today’s VPN or blockchain technologies. Still, for all the talk about President Donald Trump endangering the international economic order, in the longer run the combination of China and the internet is the greater risk. It won’t help much to have China – slated to become the world’s largest economy – firmly committed to censorship and tech restrictions.

The internet as an open, well-governed commons, is one of today’s most significant public goods, but exactly who or what is going to keep it that way? In the broader sweep of world history, we’re probably not going to remember this era for its temporary uptick in steel tariffs.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Tyler Cowen at tcowen2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Stacey Shick at sshick@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-06-08/for-sale-u-s-rule-of-law-china-s-zte-the-first-customer

China cracks down on spoofs of ‘Communist heroes’ — No “distorting or mocking” classic works — In fact, “no laughing” — Kim Jong Un cannot be called ‘Fatty’

April 3, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Authorities are clamping down on any mocking of China’s “communist classics and heroes”

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s culture watchdog has slapped fines on websites that posted parodies of “Communist classics and heroes”, as the authorities further restrict what people can say — or even laugh at — online.Major video sites iQiyi and Sina were handed undisclosed fines for “distorting or mocking” classic works, the culture ministry said, less than two weeks after new rules were issued to ban online spoofs.

The ministry did not describe the offending videos.

But another company in southwest China’s Sichuan province, Sichuan Shengshi Tianfu Media, was given “the highest fine according to law” for creating a popular parody of a revolutionary ballad, the ministry said in a Monday statement.

“Yellow River Cantata”, a patriotic song written in 1939 encouraging youth to fight during the Sino-Japanese war, has inspired several humorous remakes that have chafed the authorities.

One viral video this year featured employees from the Sichuan company in panda hats, lamenting delays in year-end bonuses.

China has one of the world’s most restrictive internets, with a “Great Firewall” that blocks foreign social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter and censors politically sensitive content.

Despite the censorship, the internet is wildly popular in China, with people turning to video parodies to mock state media or highlight pressing social issues.

But China’s media regulator — the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — issued a directive on March 22 banning websites from “editing, dubbing, or adding subtitles to classic works, radio and television programmes, or original online audio-visual programs.”

Nearly 12,000 officers have been deployed to monitor online content, the culture ministry said. Censors have investigated over 7,800 entities and found more than 230 violations, it said.

Authorities are also targeting online game developers who promote gambling or use pornographic content.

The new rule was announced just over a week after a TV reporter’s theatrical during a Beijing news conference on the sidelines of the annual parliament session took social media by storm.

The video triggered a series of satirical performances, some mocking the scripted nature of the rubber-stamp parliament, before censors intervened.

The congress greenlighted the abolition of presidential term limits, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power after his second term ends in 2023.

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Liang, standing next to the questioner, Zhang Huijun, rolled her eyes, looked Zhang up and down then turned away with another dismissive raising of the eyes.

Apple’s Cook to Trump: Embrace Open Trade — “Countries that embrace openness, that embrace trade, that embrace diversity are the countries that do exceptionally.” — Tim Cook has a good social credit rating

March 24, 2018

Cook also calls for regulations to protect privacy during forum in Beijing

Apple CEO Tim Cook arrives at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday.
Apple CEO Tim Cook arrives at the China Development Forum in Beijing on Saturday. PHOTO: GIULIA MARCHI/BLOOMBERG NEWS
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BEIJING—Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook urged U.S. President Donald Trump to support free-trade policies as a series of tariffs and other actions raise tensions between the U.S. and China.

“Countries that embrace openness, that embrace trade, that embrace diversity are the countries that do exceptionally,” Mr. Cook said during a panel discussion at an economic forum here Saturday, when asked what message he would like to bring home to Mr. Trump. “And the countries that don’t, don’t,” he added, without mentioning the president by name.

Larry Fink, chief executive of investment firm BlackRock Inc., who also attended the China Development Forum, said the U.S. and China shouldn’t fight a trade war. “The world needs a strong China and a strong U.S. The world does not need a public fight in which we reduce mutual opportunities,” he said.

The comments from Messrs. Cook and Fink came after the U.S. this week proposed tariffs on as much as $60 billion of Chinese products and tighter restrictions on acquisitions and technology transfers.

A separate, previously announced round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum products took effect Friday. The U.S. on Friday also lodged a dispute at the World Trade Organization against China’s technology licensing practices, which the Trump administration says favor Chinese companies.

China responded with plans to impose tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. goods. On Saturday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a phone call that China is ready to defend its national interests, according to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

A Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman also expressed regret at the U.S.’s case at the WTO and said China protects intellectual property rights.

Lou Jiwei, China’s former finance minister who is now the chairman of the National Council for Social Security Fund, said at the forum that he thought China’s response was too soft.

“It did not hit the spot where it hurts” the U.S., Mr. Lou said, adding that he believed a negotiated settlement was possible.

“The important thing is that he’s a businessman,” Mr. Lou said, referring to Mr. Trump. “We fight a bit, then we could talk it through.”

The three-day China Development Forum, held at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, gives global business chiefs with big stakes in the Chinese market an opportunity to build relationships with China’s senior officials, and vice versa.

Top executives of other foreign companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Qualcomm Inc.and Daimler AG are also attending the conference. Mr. Cook is this year’s co-chairman.

Like most companies at the conference, Apple depends on smooth bilateral relations between the U.S. and China. The iPhone is a product of U.S. engineering talent and Chinese manufacturing prowess, with each phone carrying the line “Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China.”

China, the world’s biggest smartphone market, is a crucial market for the iPhone.

Members of the U.S. business community are set to meet senior Chinese officials over the next few days to exchange views on trade and business environment.

That is expected to include a meeting next week with China’s new vice president, Wang Qishan, whose tasks includes managing the critical but increasingly fraught relationship with the U.S., people familiar with the matter said.

In a forum at the event, Mr. Cook also called for regulations to protect privacy. “I think this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” he said.

How technology firms handle their users’ data has become a pressing issue since Facebook Inc. said a firm with ties to the 2016 Trump campaign improperly kept data for years even though it said it has destroyed those records.

Mr. Cook said that businesses or governments shouldn’t be able to know intimate details of individuals’ lives. “The ability for anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of life: from my point of view, it shouldn’t exist,” he said.

Recently, Apple has been criticized by privacy experts over its move to store encryption keys in China for local iCloud users. Some experts said such a move could risk access to user data by Chinese authorities. Apple has said it will store the keys in a secure locationand retain control over them. Mr. Cook didn’t touch on the issue during his speech at the forum.

Write to Yoko Kubota at yoko.kubota@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/apples-cook-to-trump-embrace-open-trade-1521880744
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Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens

The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents

Kevin Hong

On June 14, 2014, the State Council of China published an ominous-sounding document called “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System”. In the way of Chinese policy documents, it was a lengthy and rather dry affair, but it contained a radical idea. What if there was a national trust score that rated the kind of citizen you were?

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit. But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

A futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control? No, it’s already getting underway in China, where the government is developing the Social Credit System (SCS) to rate the trustworthiness of its 1.3 billion citizens. The Chinese government is pitching the system as a desirable way to measure and enhance “trust” nationwide and to build a culture of “sincerity”. As the policy states, “It will forge a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility.”

Others are less sanguine about its wider purpose. “It is very ambitious in both depth and scope, including scrutinising individual behaviour and what books people are reading. It’s Amazon’s consumer tracking with an Orwellian political twist,” is how Johan Lagerkvist, a Chinese internet specialist at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, described the social credit system. Rogier Creemers, a post-doctoral scholar specialising in Chinese law and governance at the Van Vollenhoven Institute at Leiden University, who published a comprehensive translation of the plan, compared it to “Yelp reviews with the nanny state watching over your shoulder”.

For now, technically, participating in China’s Citizen Scores is voluntary. But by 2020 it will be mandatory. The behaviour of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company or other entity)in China will be rated and ranked, whether they like it or not.

Kevin Hong

Prior to its national roll-out in 2020, the Chinesegovernment is taking a watch-and-learn approach. In this marriage between communist oversight and capitalist can-do, the government has given a licence to eight private companies to come up with systems and algorithms for social credit scores. Predictably, data giants currently run two of the best-known projects.

The first is with China Rapid Finance, a partner of the social-network behemoth Tencent and developer of the messaging app WeChat with more than 850 million active users. The other, Sesame Credit, is run by the Ant Financial Services Group (AFSG), an affiliate company of Alibaba. Ant Financial sells insurance products and provides loans to small- to medium-sized businesses. However, the real star of Ant is AliPay, its payments arm that people use not only to buy things online, but also for restaurants, taxis, school fees, cinema tickets and even to transfer money to each other.

Sesame Credit has also teamed up with other data-generating platforms, such as Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that was Uber’s main competitor in China before it acquired the American company’s Chinese operations in 2016, and Baihe, the country’s largest online matchmaking service. It’s not hard to see how that all adds up to gargantuan amounts of big data that Sesame Credit can tap into to assess how people behave and rate them accordingly.

So just how are people rated? Individuals on Sesame Credit are measured by a score ranging between 350 and 950 points. Alibaba does not divulge the “complex algorithm” it uses to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account. The first is credit history. For example, does the citizen pay their electricity or phone bill on time? Next is fulfilment capacity, which it defines in its guidelines as “a user’s ability to fulfil his/her contract obligations”. The third factor is personal characteristics, verifying personal information such as someone’s mobile phone number and address. But the fourth category, behaviour and preference, is where it gets interesting.

Under this system, something as innocuous as a person’s shopping habits become a measure of character. Alibaba admits it judges people by the types of products they buy. “Someone who plays video games for ten hours a day, for example, would be considered an idle person,” says Li Yingyun, Sesame’s Technology Director. “Someone who frequently buys diapers would be considered as probably a parent, who on balance is more likely to have a sense of responsibility.” So the system not only investigates behaviour – it shapes it. It “nudges” citizens away from purchases and behaviours the government does not like.

Friends matter, too. The fifth category is interpersonal relationships. What does their choice of online friends and their interactions say about the person being assessed? Sharing what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make your score go up.

Alibaba is adamant that, currently, anything negative posted on social media does not affect scores (we don’t know if this is true or not because the algorithm is secret). But you can see how this might play out when the government’s own citizen score system officially launches in 2020. Even though there is no suggestion yet that any of the eight private companies involved in the ongoing pilot scheme will be ultimately responsible for running the government’s own system, it’s hard to believe that the government will not want to extract the maximum amount of data for its SCS, from the pilots. If that happens, and continues as the new normal under the government’s own SCS it will result in private platforms acting essentially as spy agencies for the government. They may have no choice.

Posting dissenting political opinions or links mentioning Tiananmen Square has never been wise in China, but now it could directly hurt a citizen’s rating. But here’s the real kicker: a person’s own score will also be affected by what their online friends say and do, beyond their own contact with them. If someone they are connected to online posts a negative comment, their own score will also be dragged down.

So why have millions of people already signed up to what amounts to a trial run for a publicly endorsed government surveillance system? There may be darker, unstated reasons – fear of reprisals, for instance, for those who don’t put their hand up – but there is also a lure, in the form of rewards and “special privileges” for those citizens who prove themselves to be “trustworthy” on Sesame Credit.

If their score reaches 600, they can take out a Just Spend loan of up to 5,000 yuan (around £565) to use to shop online, as long as it’s on an Alibaba site. Reach 650 points, they may rent a car without leaving a deposit. They are also entitled to faster check-in at hotels and use of the VIP check-in at Beijing Capital International Airport. Those with more than 666 points can get a cash loan of up to 50,000 yuan (£5,700), obviously from Ant Financial Services. Get above 700 and they can apply for Singapore travel without supporting documents such as an employee letter. And at 750, they get fast-tracked application to a coveted pan-European Schengen visa. “I think the best way to understand the system is as a sort of bastard love child of a loyalty scheme,” says Creemers.

Higher scores have already become a status symbol, with almost 100,000 people bragging about their scores on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) within months of launch. A citizen’s score can even affect their odds of getting a date, or a marriage partner, because the higher their Sesame rating, the more prominent their dating profile is on Baihe.

Sesame Credit already offers tips to help individuals improve their ranking, including warning about the downsides of friending someone who has a low score. This might lead to the rise of score advisers, who will share tips on how to gain points, or reputation consultants willing to offer expert advice on how to strategically improve a ranking or get off the trust-breaking blacklist.

Indeed, the government’s Social Credit System is basically a big data gamified version of the Communist Party’s surveillance methods; the disquieting dang’an. The regime kept a dossier on every individual that tracked political and personal transgressions. A citizen’s dang’an followed them for life, from schools to jobs. People started reporting on friends and even family members, raising suspicion and lowering social trust in China. The same thing will happen with digital dossiers. People will have an incentive to say to their friends and family, “Don’t post that. I don’t want you to hurt your score but I also don’t want you to hurt mine.”

We’re also bound to see the birth of reputation black markets selling under-the-counter ways to boost trustworthiness. In the same way that Facebook Likes and Twitter followers can be bought, individuals will pay to manipulate their score. What about keeping the system secure? Hackers (some even state-backed) could change or steal the digitally stored information.

The new system reflects a cunning paradigm shift.

As we’ve noted, instead of trying to enforce stability or conformity with a big stick and a good dose of top-down fear, the government is attempting to make obedience feel like gaming. It is a method of social control dressed up in some points-reward system. It’s gamified obedience.

In a trendy neighbourhood in downtown Beijing, the BBC news services hit the streets in October 2015 to ask people about their Sesame Credit ratings. Most spoke about the upsides. But then, who would publicly criticise the system? Ding, your score might go down. Alarmingly, few people understood that a bad score could hurt them in the future. Even more concerning was how many people had no idea that they were being rated.

Currently, Sesame Credit does not directly penalise people for being “untrustworthy” – it’s more effective to lock people in with treats for good behaviour. But Hu Tao, Sesame Credit’s chief manager, warns people that the system is designed so that “untrustworthy people can’t rent a car, can’t borrow money or even can’t find a job”. She has even disclosed that Sesame Credit has approached China’s Education Bureau about sharing a list of its students who cheated on national examinations, in order to make them pay into the future for their dishonesty.

Penalties are set to change dramatically when the government system becomes mandatory in 2020. Indeed, on September 25, 2016, the State Council General Office updated its policy entitled “Warning and Punishment Mechanisms for Persons Subject to Enforcement for Trust-Breaking”. The overriding principle is simple: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere,” the policy document states.

For instance, people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It’s the reality Chinese citizens will face. As the government document states, the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

According to Luciano Floridi, a professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford and the director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, there have been three critical “de-centering shifts” that have altered our view in self-understanding: Copernicus’s model of the Earth orbiting the Sun; Darwin’s theory of natural selection; and Freud’s claim that our daily actions are controlled by the unconscious mind.

Floridi believes we are now entering the fourth shift, as what we do online and offline merge into an onlife. He asserts that, as our society increasingly becomes an infosphere, a mixture of physical and virtual experiences, we are acquiring an onlife personality – different from who we innately are in the “real world” alone. We see this writ large on Facebook, where people present an edited or idealised portrait of their lives. Think about your Uber experiences. Are you just a little bit nicer to the driver because you know you will be rated? But Uber ratings are nothing compared to Peeple, an app launched in March 2016, which is like a Yelp for humans. It allows you to assign ratings and reviews to everyone you know – your spouse, neighbour, boss and even your ex. A profile displays a “Peeple Number”, a score based on all the feedback and recommendations you receive. Worryingly, once your name is in the Peeple system, it’s there for good. You can’t opt out.

Peeple has forbidden certain bad behaviours including mentioning private health conditions, making profanities or being sexist (however you objectively assess that). But there are few rules on how people are graded or standards about transparency.

China’s trust system might be voluntary as yet, but it’s already having consequences. In February 2017, the country’s Supreme People’s Court announced that 6.15 million of its citizens had been banned from taking flights over the past four years for social misdeeds. The ban is being pointed to as a step toward blacklisting in the SCS. “We have signed a memorandum… [with over] 44 government departments in order to limit ‘discredited’ people on multiple levels,” says Meng Xiang, head of the executive department of the Supreme Court. Another 1.65 million blacklisted people cannot take trains.

Where these systems really descend into nightmarish territory is that the trust algorithms used are unfairly reductive. They don’t take into account context. For instance, one person might miss paying a bill or a fine because they were in hospital; another may simply be a freeloader. And therein lies the challenge facing all of us in the digital world, and not just the Chinese. If life-determining algorithms are here to stay, we need to figure out how they can embrace the nuances, inconsistencies and contradictions inherent in human beings and how they can reflect real life.

Kevin Hong

You could see China’s so-called trust plan as Orwell’s 1984 meets Pavlov’s dogs. Act like a good citizen, be rewarded and be made to think you’re having fun. It’s worth remembering, however, that personal scoring systems have been present in the west for decades.

More than 70 years ago, two men called Bill Fair and Earl Isaac invented credit scores. Today, companies use FICO scores to determine many financial decisions, including the interest rate on our mortgage or whether we should be given a loan.

For the majority of Chinese people, they have never had credit scores and so they can’t get credit. “Many people don’t own houses, cars or credit cards in China, so that kind of information isn’t available to measure,” explains Wen Quan, an influential blogger who writes about technology and finance. “The central bank has the financial data from 800 million people, but only 320 million have a traditional credit history.” According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the annual economic loss caused by lack of credit information is more than 600 billion yuan (£68bn).

China’s lack of a national credit system is why the government is adamant that Citizen Scores are long overdue and badly needed to fix what they refer to as a “trust deficit”. In a poorly regulated market, the sale of counterfeit and substandard products is a massive problem. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 63 per cent of all fake goods, from watches to handbags to baby food, originate from China. “The level of micro corruption is enormous,” Creemers says. “So if this particular scheme results in more effective oversight and accountability, it will likely be warmly welcomed.”

The government also argues that the system is a way to bring in those people left out of traditional credit systems, such as students and low-income households. Professor Wang Shuqin from the Office of Philosophy and Social Science at Capital Normal University in China recently won the bid to help the government develop the system that she refers to as “China’s Social Faithful System”. Without such a mechanism, doing business in China is risky, she stresses, as about half of the signed contracts are not kept. “Given the speed of the digital economy it’s crucial that people can quickly verify each other’s credit worthiness,” she says. “The behaviour of the majority is determined by their world of thoughts. A person who believes in socialist core values is behaving more decently.” She regards the “moral standards” the system assesses, as well as financial data, as a bonus.

Indeed, the State Council’s aim is to raise the “honest mentality and credit levels of the entire society” in order to improve “the overall competitiveness of the country”. Is it possible that the SCS is in fact a more desirably transparent approach to surveillance in a country that has a long history of watching its citizens? “As a Chinese person, knowing that everything I do online is being tracked, would I rather be aware of the details of what is being monitored and use this information to teach myself how to abide by the rules?” says Rasul Majid, a Chinese blogger based in Shanghai who writes about behavioural design and gaming psychology. “Or would I rather live in ignorance and hope/wish/dream that personal privacy still exists and that our ruling bodies respect us enough not to take advantage?” Put simply, Majid thinks the system gives him a tiny bit more control over his data.

Kevin Hong

When I tell westerners about the Social CreditSystem in China, their responses are fervent and visceral. Yet we already rate restaurants, movies, books and even doctors. Facebook, meanwhile, is now capable of identifying you in pictures without seeing your face; it only needs your clothes, hair and body type to tag you in an image with 83 per cent accuracy.

In 2015, the OECD published a study revealing that in the US there are at least 24.9 connected devices per 100 inhabitants. All kinds of companies scrutinise the “big data” emitted from these devices to understand our lives and desires, and to predict our actions in ways that we couldn’t even predict ourselves.

Governments around the world are already in the business of monitoring and rating. In the US, the National Security Agency (NSA) is not the only official digital eye following the movements of its citizens. In 2015, the US Transportation Security Administration proposed the idea of expanding the PreCheck background checks to include social-media records, location data and purchase history. The idea was scrapped after heavy criticism, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. We already live in a world of predictive algorithms that determine if we are a threat, a risk, a good citizen and even if we are trustworthy. We’re getting closer to the Chinese system – the expansion of credit scoring into life scoring – even if we don’t know we are.

So are we heading for a future where we will all be branded online and data-mined? It’s certainly trending that way. Barring some kind of mass citizen revolt to wrench back privacy, we are entering an age where an individual’s actions will be judged by standards they can’t control and where that judgement can’t be erased. The consequences are not only troubling; they’re permanent. Forget the right to delete or to be forgotten, to be young and foolish.

While it might be too late to stop this new era, we do have choices and rights we can exert now. For one thing, we need to be able rate the raters. In his book The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly describes a future where the watchers and the watched will transparently track each other. “Our central choice now is whether this surveillance is a secret, one-way panopticon – or a mutual, transparent kind of ‘coveillance’ that involves watching the watchers,” he writes.

Our trust should start with individuals within government (or whoever is controlling the system). We need trustworthy mechanisms to make sure ratings and data are used responsibly and with our permission. To trust the system, we need to reduce the unknowns. That means taking steps to reduce the opacity of the algorithms. The argument against mandatory disclosures is that if you know what happens under the hood, the system could become rigged or hacked. But if humans are being reduced to a rating that could significantly impact their lives, there must be transparency in how the scoring works.

In China, certain citizens, such as government officials, will likely be deemed above the system. What will be the public reaction when their unfavourable actions don’t affect their score? We could see a Panama Papers 3.0 for reputation fraud.

It is still too early to know how a culture of constant monitoring plus rating will turn out. What will happen when these systems, charting the social, moral and financial history of an entire population, come into full force? How much further will privacy and freedom of speech (long under siege in China) be eroded? Who will decide which way the system goes? These are questions we all need to consider, and soon. Today China, tomorrow a place near you. The real questions about the future of trust are not technological or economic; they are ethical.

If we are not vigilant, distributed trust could become networked shame. Life will become an endless popularity contest, with us all vying for the highest rating that only a few can attain.

This is an extract from Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart (Penguin Portfolio) by Rachel Botsman, published on October 4. Since this piece was written, The People’s Bank of China delayed the licences to the eight companies conducting social credit pilots. The government’s plans to launch the Social Credit System in 2020 remain unchanged

Updated 28.11.17: An amendment has been made to clarify a comparison between the Chinese government’s Social Credit System and Communist Party surveillance methods.

China to reorganise propaganda efforts at home and abroad

March 21, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | The CCTV tower in Beijing: the broadcaster is facing consolidation with other state media

BEIJING (AFP) – China Wednesday announced a series of changes aimed at strengthening its global influence, including the creation of a centralised news service to better communicate the ruling Communist Party’s message at home and abroad.The changes are part of a larger overhaul of government functions that will also see an increased role for the United Front Work Department, a shadowy organisation that has been accused of trying to manipulate politics abroad.

Under the new arrangement, the party’s Central Propaganda Department will take direct responsibility for print, news and movies away from the central government, according to an announcement published by the official Xinhua news agency.

The move to put these branches of the media directly under the party’s control comes as China has been tightening censorship and efforts to dictate the outlook and “positivity” of content.

Control of radio and television will be placed under a separate government-run organisation tasked with “carrying out the Party’s propaganda guidelines and policies”.

The change is aimed at ensuring that broadcast media “acts as the Party’s mouthpiece”, the announcement said.

As part of the change Chinese state media outlets CCTV, China Radio International and China National Radio will be consolidated into one super-broadcaster answering to the Central Propaganda Department.

Programmes targeted at foreign audiences will be rebranded as “the Voice of China”, the announcement said.

The reorganisation will also increase the prominence of the United Front Work , an agency which works to promote ties between the Communist Party and non-Communist elite — including other political parties, former government officials, religious groups and overseas Chinese.

Under the new arrangement it will have complete responsibility for work related to China’s ethnic minority groups, religious management and contact with overseas Chinese, which Beijing sees as an important constituency for its propaganda efforts.

President Xi Jinping has described the United Front Work Department as a “magic weapon” in the country’s soft power arsenal.

But it has come under increased criticism for what some say are covert efforts to influence politics in other countries.

Chinese donors tied to United Front-affiliated groups gave money to Australian politicians, providing impetus for Canberra to introduce new laws to limit foreign interference in its government.

Related:

 

The covert department behind China’s growing influence

March 21, 2018

‘Magic wand’ used to extend China’s reach abroad gets enhanced role at time of growing international concern over state’s covert influence

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 3:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 4:37pm

The controversial Chinese Communist Party department responsible for promoting its influence around the world will have its authority greatly strengthened, according to a document seen by the South China Morning Post.

The document was later published by the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday afternoon.

The United Front Work Department, which has fallen under the scrutiny of Western governments in recent months, will now oversee the country’s ethnic and religious issues as well as overseas Chinese affairs.

This is part of a sweeping party restructuring that will see a further fusion between the party and the state.

It aims at increasing efficiency and strengthening the party’s control on all aspects of life in China.

The document also proposed upgrades to four party leading groups – responsible for reform, cybersecurity, finance and the economy, and foreign affairs.

The leading groups are the de facto decision-making bodies in Chinese politics and the upgrade is designed to further institutionalise the party’s political power.

The elevation of the UFW, once hailed by Xi Jinping as a “magic weapon” for the party to project its influence and wield its soft power, came at a time when democracies from Australia to the United States are increasingly suspicious of tacit Chinese state influences on their soil.

“The party used to lead the United Front behind a veil,” a government source, who declined to be named, told the Post.

“Under the new structure, it will no longer hide behind various government agencies.”

 The Communist Party is seeking to institutionalise its political power. Photo: Reuters

Under the new line-up, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission will report to the United Front Work Department, while the State Administration of Religious Affairs and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office will be absorbed into the department as two internal bureaus, according to the document dated March 19.

At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party will also upgrade four “leading groups” headed by Xi into “commissions”.

The move will enhance the president’s control over the relevant fields.

The State Computer Network and Information Security Management Centre, the office in charge of China’s “Great Firewall”, will be moved under the central commission on internet security, from the control of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The central leading group responsible for protecting China’s maritime interests, meanwhile, will be merged into Central Commission of Foreign Affairs Works – a move that highlights the importance of maritime issues on the leadership’s agenda.

In addition, the Chinese Communist Party will set up a new “Rule-by-Law Commission” and an auditing commission. A new leading group on education will be set up as well.

The Publicity Department of the Central Committee, the propaganda arm of the party, will have a direct control over all publishing and movies, according to the document.

 http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2138196/its-mysterious-department-behind-chinas-growing

China directs users to approved VPNs as firewall tightens

January 30, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | A man uses a computer in an internet cafe in Beijing: China is tightening controls by curbing the use of VPNs

BEIJING (AFP) – China vowed Tuesday to force both local and foreign companies and individuals to use only government-approved software to access the global internet, as overseas firms fear losing unrestricted online services under an impending deadline.International companies and individuals have been fretting for months over whether Beijing would enforce new regulations curbing the use of virtual private networks (VPN).

The content accessible on China’s domestic internet is highly restricted. Google, Facebook and other foreign websites such as the New York Times and the BBC, and some email services, are blocked by the country’s Great Firewall of censorship.

One way to bypass the controls is by using a VPN, which can allow users to access the unfiltered global internet. This is where authorities are cracking down.

In January last year the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced it would be banning the use of unlicensed VPNs, with a deadline of March 31, 2018 to complete the crackdown.

MIIT chief engineer Zhang Feng told a news conference Tuesday that unapproved VPN operators are the target of the regulations.

For those “VPNs which unlawfully conduct cross-border operational activities, we want to regulate this”, Zhang said.

Many foreign individuals and businesses currently use VPN services unapproved by Chinese regulators. They are on tenterhooks as to whether China will shut down these service providers.

The inability to access certain online tools, internet censorship and cybersecurity are major headaches for foreign companies, according to a survey of US companies conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and released Tuesday.

Last summer tech giant Apple restricted its Chinese customers’ access to VPNs in the country, removing dozens of apps from its app store.

In December, a man in southern China was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for selling a VPN service on Alibaba’s Taobao and other marketplaces.

The new rules drive customers who want to access the global internet to approved state providers like China Mobile and China Unicom.

Those who want to access the global internet “can rent lines or networks from business operators which have set up international entry and exit ports in accordance with the law”, Zhang said.

He dismissed concerns that using China’s state-approved providers could jeopardise the security of business and individual data.

“These telecommunications enterprises only provide you with a channel, or a network, and are not able to see information related to your business,” he said.

China tightens screws on social media — all media must “serve the direction of socialism and correctly guide public opinion”

January 28, 2018
 

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have ordered a major social media platform to curb “harmful content” more effectively as they intensify oversight of online expression – even taking aim at rap music, crude cartoons, dirty jokes and celebrity gossip.

The campaign is intended not just to stamp out dissent but to ensure that all media “serves the direction of socialism”.

Sina Weibo has failed to comply, Beijing’s Cyberspace Administration said Saturday on its official WeChat social media account, berating the site for letting users post “content of wrong public opinion orientation, obscenity, low taste and ethnic discrimination”.

The company “has violated the country’s laws and regulations, led online public opinions to wrong direction and left a very bad influence,” it said.

In another case announced Friday, China’s securities watchdog said it had punished a blogger on WeChat with a 200,000 yuan (US$31,000) fine for posting market-moving “misinformation” about meetings between corporations and regulators.

China has some of the world’s tightest controls over web content, protected by what is called “The Great Firewall”. Restrictions on free speech have increased since President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012.

A controversial cybersecurity law, which took effect last June, has given authorities even more leeway to regulate a wide variety of information.

At the time, the cyberspace administrator told major internet companies to obey the provisions of the new law requiring online news and information services to “serve the direction of socialism and correctly guide public opinion”.

Image result for china, cyber, photos

Since then they have taken aim at not just explicit depictions of sex and violence, but anything the authorities consider low brow: from crude cartoons and dirty jokes to celebrity gossip.

Earlier in January, social media began circulating a government order apparently issued to Chinese broadcasters banning them from giving air time to “artists with tattoos, hip hop music” and other performers who are “in conflict with the party’s core values and morals”.

In punishment for Weibo’s failure to toe the lengthening party line, regulators have demanded a week-long shutdown of the site’s offending features, including one that allows users to pay to ask celebrities questions, as well as a function to search trending topics.

It was far from the first time the authorities have expressed concern over content on the social media giant, which is owned by internet behemoth Sina.

The company has tried to counter criticism by banning keywords and hiring thousands of censors to laboriously take down posts that violate the party’s ever stricter dictums.

On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, commenters were quick to take issue with the government’s decision.

“This is just an excuse to better control the trending topics search,” said one user.

“From now on, the things you see on the page will be what (the government) wants to make you see.”

Source: AFP/am
Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/china-tightens-screws-on-social-media-9904308

China closes more than 13,000 websites in past three years

December 24, 2017

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has closed more than 13,000 websites since the beginning of 2015 for breaking the law or other rules and the vast majority of people support government efforts to clean up cyberspace, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

 No automatic alt text available.

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The government has stepped up already tight controls over the internet since President Xi Jinping took power five years ago, in what critics say is an effort to restrict freedom of speech and prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party.

The government says all countries regulate the internet, and its rules are aimed at ensuring national security and social stability and preventing the spread of pornography and violent content.

A report to the on-going session of the standing committee of China’s largely rubber stamp parliament said the authorities had targeted pornography and violence in their sweeps of websites, blogs and social media accounts, Xinhua said.

As well as the 13,000 websites shut down, almost 10 million accounts had also been closed by websites, it added. It did not give details but the accounts were likely on social media platforms.

“Internet security concerns the party’s long-term hold on power, the country’s long-term peace and stability, socio-economic development and the people’s personal interests,” Xinhua said.

More than 90 percent of people surveyed supported government efforts to manage the internet, with 63.5 percent of them believing that in recent years there has been an obvious reduction in harmful online content, it added.

“These moves have a powerful deterrent effect,” Wang Shengjun, vice chairman of parliament’s standing committee, told legislators, according to Xinhua.

Authorities including the Cyberspace Administration of China have summoned more than 2,200 websites operators for talks during the same period, he said.

Separately, Xinhua said that over the past five years, more than 10 million people who refused to register using their real names had internet or other telecoms accounts suspended.

China ushered in a tough cyber security law in June, following years of fierce debate around the controversial legislation that many foreign business groups fear will hit their ability to operate in the country.

China maintains a strict censorship regime, banning access to many foreign news outlets, search engines and social media including Google and Facebook.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

West grows wary of China’s influence game

December 22, 2017

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s attempt to paraphrase Chairman Mao last week was not just a mildly farcical example of political theatre. It also marked an important turning point in a decades-long debate over how the West should respond to China’s rise.

“Aodaliya renmin zhan qi lai! The Australian people have stood up,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in mangled Mandarin – a deliberate echo of Mao’s declaration in 1949 that the Chinese people had stood up, thus ending a century of humiliation at the hands of colonial aggressors.

Mr Turnbull was defending new Australian laws drafted this month which are designed to limit the influence of foreign governments and which have one particular target in mind – the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

With only a brief pause following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, most developed democracies have engaged with China since the late 1970s in the belief the country would integrate into the US-led global order and eventually become more like them.

But those assumptions are now under assault as the West belatedly realises China has no intention of opening up its political system. At the same time, there is growing disquiet over Beijing’s efforts to shape the way Western countries think about its authoritarian model.

In just the past two weeks, the intelligence services of Germany and New Zealand have publicly warned about the threat of Chinese espionage and influence operations in their countries. Last week, the US Congress held a hearing to discuss the “long arm of China”.

“Attempts by the Chinese government to guide, buy, or coerce political influence and control discussion of ‘sensitive’ topics are pervasive, and pose serious challenges in the United States and our like-minded allies,” said Mr Marco Rubio, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

While the world has been fixated on allegations of Russian interference in US elections in the past year, China’s more widespread operations have garnered far less attention, until recently.

“Chinese operations are much more subtle, less targeted and more about long-term influence-building than Russian operations,” says Mr Christopher Johnson, the former head of the China desk at the Central Intelligence Agency and now a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

China’s President Xi Jinping and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Apec meeting in Danang, Vietnam, last month. The Turnbull government has moved to revamp the country’s espionage and foreign influence laws. The draft laws would ban foreign political donations and force lobbyists to reveal when they are working for overseas entities. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

“But as we start to realise that China intends to socialise us rather than become more like us, the debate in the West has taken on a harder edge and people are asking whether 40 years of engagement might have been a sham.”

SUBVERSION

Distinct from traditional spying activity, which most countries engage in, China’s influence operations are directed by a little-discussed branch of the ruling CCP known as the United Front Work Department.

They include efforts to co-opt or subvert a broad range of actors and institutions, from politicians to media outlets to universities, although they primarily target the Chinese diaspora – an estimated 60 million people worldwide.

Experts who study the United Front say the main goal of these operations is to isolate, marginalise and attack perceived threats to the CCP from overseas-based Chinese dissidents and human rights and democracy activists, Tibetan independence advocates and representatives of Taiwan.

But the objective now encompasses efforts to convince Western elites and the broader public of the legitimacy of the CCP and its right to rule China.

On the front line of this struggle is Australia, a longstanding US ally and crucial security partner in Asia, but whose commodity-based economy is dependent on demand from China.

“The party under Xi (Jinping) believes it is engaged in a huayu zhanzheng – a ‘discourse war’ – with the West, which it thinks enjoys media hegemony and must be challenged,” says Mr David Shambaugh, director of the China policy programme at George Washington University.

He estimates that China spends between US$10 billion and US$12 billion (between S$13.5 billion and S$16 billion) a year on “soft power” efforts – ranging from traditional lobbying and public relations campaigns to more clandestine forms of influence-building.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has tracked at least A$6.7 million (S$6.9 million) in political donations to Australia’s two main political parties from just two Chinese billionaires with close ties to Beijing.

This issue burst on to the political agenda last week with the resignation of Mr Sam Dastyari, a rising star in the Labor Party who used donations from one of the billionaires to clear some of his personal debts. He later attended a press conference with Chinese media where he called publicly for Australia to respect China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea – a position contrary to that of his own party.

ASIO has also identified about 10 political candidates at the state and local government level that it believes have close ties to China’s intelligence services, according to Australian media reports.

Western intelligence agencies believe this is part of a wider orchestrated campaign by Beijing to insert agents of influence into the highest levels of democracies around the world.

The CCP “is seeking to suppress dissent among its diaspora in countries around the world”, says Mr Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at Australian National University. “It uses a tapestry of methods to achieve its goals: political donations, control of Chinese language media, mobilising community and student groups; and engaging in coercive activities that involve CCP proxies and even consular officials.”

Foreign journalists, politicians, business people and academics seen as “unfriendly” to China are refused visas to visit the country, attacked by state media and paid online trolls and sometimes targeted by Chinese hackers. The families of Chinese students and recent emigrants are often threatened by state security agents back in China if they are seen as stepping out of line while abroad.

One of the Chinese billionaires who allegedly provided donations to Mr Dastyari is Mr Huang Xiangmo, founder of a property development company in Shenzhen who moved to Sydney with his family in 2011. Until recently he was chairman of the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China, a United Front-backed organisation.

Mr Huang helped fund a China-focused think-tank at University of Technology Sydney, which has former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr as its director. Mr Huang eventually resigned as chairman of the Australian-China Relations Institute’s advisory board when some academics queried whether it was becoming a mouthpiece for Chinese propaganda.

Defenders of these initiatives say Beijing merely wants to “tell China’s story well” and is acting no differently from Western countries. The US government supports organisations that fund pro-democracy groups worldwide, while Washington-based think-tanks have global affiliates that promote a US world view.

But this argument ignores the fact that most United Front work is carried out covertly.

The CCP’s ” United Front work is very different from Western efforts to exert influence – there is… long-term planning and central coordination between public and nominally private enterprises that democracies can’t even imagine”, says Mr Gerry Groot, an expert on the United Front Work Department at the University of Adelaide. The efforts retain “plausible deniability” by using “seemingly independent societies and organisations whose actions are in fact determined by Beijing”.

ASIO’s investigation into Chinese political interference and the Dastyari affair prompted the Turnbull government to revamp the country’s espionage and foreign influence laws this month. The draft laws would ban foreign political donations and force lobbyists to reveal when they are working for overseas entities.

BEIJING’S RESPONSE

Beijing has reacted angrily to the new laws and public reporting of its extensive United Front work in the country.

These media reports “were made up out of thin air and filled with Cold War mentality and ideological bias, reflecting a typical anti-China hysteria and paranoid (sic)”, read a statement from a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Australia. The reports “unscrupulously vilified… the Chinese community in Australia with racial prejudice, which in turn has tarnished Australia’s reputation as a multicultural society”.

Others in Australia, which has a long and difficult history with race relations, have accused the government of stoking xenophobia for political advantage.

Many of the 1.2 million people in Australia who identify as Chinese have been there for several generations and a large proportion came from South-east Asia, democratic Taiwan or left Hong Kong and mainland China to escape repression. Some of them are deeply disturbed by Beijing’s attempts to infiltrate their community organisations and they blame it for creating the conditions for public suspicion of their communities.

“Many in the Chinese community welcome this new legislation, which is very clearly targeting the actions of foreign governments rather than any individuals or communities,” says Associate Professor Feng Chongyi at University of Technology Sydney who was detained in China by state security agents for 10 days in April because of his research into Chinese politics. “If the Chinese government is not interfering in Australian politics, then why is it so concerned and so desperate to portray this as anti-China propaganda?”

FINANCIAL TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline ‘West grows wary of China’s influence game’.
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