How China Trains the World’s Autocrats to Surveil Their People | NYT

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Recognize this guy? How about this one? Him? They all have
something in common. They govern like autocrats. These leaders are
rising in an age where technology can make
their lives much easier. And leading the way is China. At home, they’re
pouring billions into the most sophisticated
censorship and surveillance apparatus the world
has ever known. I spent nearly a decade here. And halfway through that
period, something changed. Xi Jinping took power, and
cameras started appearing — a lot of them. Now, the cameras
are everywhere. They hang from traffic lights,
intersections, crosswalks; on trees, fences,
and subway cars; even inside your taxi or
your apartment building. These are, in fact,
government surveillance cameras, and there are over
200 million of them here. The government
says the cameras are used to fight crime,
squash protests and maintain control. It’s all designed to make sure
the Communist Party of China never loses power. Basically, they want to know
what their citizens are doing all the time, and their
actions are being judged. Most of the time,
it’s just police watching on the other
end of these cameras. But the idea is that one day
soon, artificial intelligence will be able to
automate that job, analyzing the
day-to-day lives of hundreds of millions
of citizens. You might think, well,
that’s just China. But it’s not only in China. See that? That camera is in Ecuador. This is Ecuador’s
emergency response system, which is known as ECU-911. The government peddles it
as a crime fighting tool. Ecuador has around 4,000
national security cameras across the entire country. The cameras all feed into
a few centralized rooms, like this. The system was not
only made in China, but it was installed
by Chinese companies and workers. The Chinese even trained the
Ecuadoreans how to use it. Reporter: “They’re telling the
public that this is for safety. We went back, we can see what
the surveillance looks like. So this is, what, 30 people
in a room surveilling society.” “Wow.” Reporter: “Now my question,
though, is: If you wanted to stop crime, would you have
30 people in a room? To me, that number, 30, does
not seem like a lot of people.” “So 30 people,
perhaps monitoring a nationwide camera system
might seem little, but it’s the deterrent effect
of the cameras which impact on people. It’s them moderating
their behavior based on the fact that they
know that they might be being surveilled, and they don’t
know how that information might be being used.” And that’s the point. This might be able
to fight crime. But just like in China,
the cameras have potential for other use. “Surveillance technology
exporting this kind of surveillance capabilities
to a country like Ecuador makes money.” This is Edin, a
global surveillance expert in the U.K. I asked him, so what has
China actually exported here? “Well it secures our
diplomatic relationship with China, and it
exports their model of internet governorship
and how our security infrastructure is going to
look like in the future.” Chinese surveillance
systems are increasingly showing up all
around the world. Some of those countries
have stronger government institutions to
regulate than others, but they all need
money to buy it. Turns out, the Chinese
can help with that, too. We know it started at the
2008 Beijing Olympics. Behind the scenes,
China was selling its state-of-the-art
security setup to visiting delegations. This is where Ecuadorian
officials first saw it. So, China and
Ecuador made a deal. This is Martha, a
former politician turned investigative journalist. This all happened under
the former president Rafael Correa, who was
widely seen as an autocrat. He rewrote
Ecuador’s Constitution. He erased term limits. He took control of the courts
and silenced the press. Helping him each step of the
way was money from China. So, China got Ecuador’s
oil and Ecuador got things like roads and hospitals. It also got a nationwide
surveillance system. And this is what it
looks like today. Rafael Correa has been out
of office for more than two years now, and Lenín Moreno
has taken the country back in a more democratic direction. But even after
autocrats leave office, their legacies can live on. After all, there is
a system in place with a sinister potential. It just depends how
it’s being used. Lidia lives in a
high-crime neighborhood on the city’s mountainside. She says the police
rarely respond to crimes that happen directly
in front of cameras and that some of the most
dangerous neighborhoods, like hers, don’t have
any cameras at all. While Lidia’s
neighborhood has none, there’s unexpectedly one
here, in a safe neighborhood. It’s the only camera
around, and it can see right into this man’s house. Colonel Pazmino was a vocal
critic of former president Rafael Correa,
and he was often followed by government spies. He says when the
Chinese camera system came in, the spies went home. In other words,
Colonel Pazmino thinks the system is used
for more than emergencies. He believes the
state’s intelligence unit uses it to track political
dissidents like him. In China,
authorities have also installed cameras outside
of dissidents’ homes. We brought this claim
to Francisco Robayo, who was ECU-911’s
director at the time. He said, the system isn’t
for spying on or intimidating political opponents. He deflected, and so did the
country’s intelligence chief. We were in a secret,
unmarked bunker outside of the capital,
and we were not allowed to point our
camera at anything outside of this single frame. We came to ask Mr. Costa if
the intelligence agency uses the public security cameras
to spy on citizens. Midway through our
interview, we took a break. Remember how we were only
allowed to take this one single frame? Well, that’s
because they didn’t want us filming the
background that’s deliberately out of focus right now. But when not looking through
the lens of the camera, we could still see it clearly. Once we pointed out
the feeds from ECU-911, they admitted they also
could access the public security cameras. Ecuador’s officials
maintain the system is a crime-fighting tool. But why the system also feeds
into the intelligence agency raises the same concerns
that human rights advocates raise in China. These cameras are easier
to abuse than use. It just depends
what your goals are. And remember, China’s
goal is political control. That’s what these systems
were designed for. In effect, China is
exporting more than cameras. They are exporting the way
they use their cameras. And while other countries
also offer systems, including the U.S.,
many say China is thought to be the most
dangerous because it provides funding, even to
known dictators, and provides them with
a sinister model for how to use it. “We’ve seen cases where
governments around the world have used surveillance
technology to infiltrate and spy on dissidents,
on activists, on lawyers, on opposition parties. So this actually, fundamentally
undermines democracy.” More and more leaders
like Rafael Correa appear to be rising. Now they have access
to technology, undreamt of even 20 years ago. And China seems
willing to give them cheap loans to buy it. The more countries
that install China’s centralized
surveillance technology, the more that China’s very
own autocratic use of it may be normalized. And like in Ecuador, the
infrastructure for autocracy stays even as
leaders come and go. “What the question
for us now as people who are now more
surveilled than ever, is how we want to live
in this world, how we want to regulate that,
and what kind of surveillance we want to be put under?” [question asked in Spanish]


  1. Hi there — I’m Jonah, one of the producers of this piece. Have questions about our reporting process or the story? I’m also curious what questions this video raises for you. Do you trust the security cameras in your country are being used ethically? I’ll be sticking around the comments section for the next ~24 hours – ask me anything!

    Read our full investigation:

    And for a behind the scenes explanation of the scene that occurs at 8:30 — see this article explaining how it went down:

    In a Secret Bunker in the Andes, a Wall That Was Really a Window

  2. LOL…New York Times should work on topic like ' China foreseeable collapse in 2020 by China intelligent' or " 1000 facts that proves China will whipped out by Alien in 2021 " which might sounds more promising i guess.

  3. This piece seems more like propaganda to me rather than journalism. I barely see investigation and analysis or any form of stats, a verdict is quickly given without a clear rationale behind it. Maybe if they didn't make it this way the piece would never be approved by the editor in charge. Or maybe it's simply due to incompetence. 

    Cultural difference is really something interesting, in a country where everything is great and awesome, "fantastic" "amazing" become the new "good", "good" becomes the new "not so good".

  4. Stay out of China, you will be fine! However, you might be the next victim of terror attack or school mass shooting or victim of any crime that could prevented.

  5. I hope PRISM (surveillance program) under Global Surveillance from 2007 would achieve the same or better surveillance of not only citizens of united states but also the people worldwide like Angela Merkel, Germany Prime minister. Don't waste the money from the taxpayers, please. And since the PRISM started in 2007, we already have 10 years lead at least! Please consistently report the cases from other countries and make our America great again.

  6. we shouldn't be afraid, even if we're being watched, almost nothing is being recorded permanently, the government is not interested in your creepy boring life, would be a waste of storage.

  7. US: High-crime rate Country with 0.4 billion population.
    CN: One of Safest Country with 1.4 billion population.
    NYT: High crime rate means democracy & freedom.
    GOD: Never grow up, my sons.
    Trump: That’s why we need a WALL. MAGA!

  8. At least there's no Mass shooting in China, Except if you are a mass shooter you get shoot by a military.

  9. Good Job playin double standard games again,
    China install those cameras to monitor its own people, to uphold its dictatorship
    the "Freeland of America" has same kinda cameras for protecting its own people and making peoples life better right??? LMFAO…..
    No matter what happens, jus blame it on China…
    Oh… actually no worries, China's gonna collapse several times next year on western media right??? Lmao…

  10. The west and America are trying so hard to discredit and demonize China! All that is in vain! When the Chinese get fed up with you guys, don’t say that you didn’t start that war! Leave China alone

  11. Had it been american surveillance companies and loans from the IMF and the world bank then there would be no story whatsoever…

  12. Only thieves, criminals and bad people who hurt others are afraid of being watched. Is America's global surveillance justice?

  13. Occult practices integrated with survalance using high tech devices and varying levels of corruption

  14. This is part of the reasons why China is the safest country in the world. btw..the voice in this vid sounds like someone's mama died.

  15. so, no democratic countries does it? are the video producer just too stupid to realize all government does if they can afford it. UK has, US had it.

  16. China wants to bring this tech to all it's south east asian neighbors. Malaysia already signed up for it

  17. Lies about having access to the ECU-911 cameras. Turns out the feed is right behind them. The Ecuadorian intelligence agency, quite Ironic.

  18. Nailed it when saying “it depends how it’s being used.” ECU 911 has the potential to improve safety and continue to make Ecuador one of the safest countries in the region. But it can have a sinister dark side if it isn’t used hand in hand with high moral standards for the democratic benefit of everyone.

  19. The president of Poland is not an autocrat. He doesn't even have the highest power in Poland and is not even in control of the party he is in.

  20. ( Please correct me if I am totally wrong here )

    I do not know in detail the case of Ecuador, but I would not be surprised that Ecuador got scared of the US aggressive intervention style and saw China has a lesser evil.

    Think about it , if you do not align with the US economic and political interest, they can totally blockade and destroy your economy.

    At least China does not topple your government if you do not want to do business with them.

  21. state of the art ai right now excels at pattern recognition. So from a camera it can identify you, determine what you are doing, and if it can listen in on your conversation, it can understand and analyze that as well, or atleast recognize generally if you may be saying something suspicious or not. this is what can be done with current technologies, who knows what it will be used for later. In good hands it can do good, in bad hands it can do bad.

  22. hey hey, as long as Chinese people are well fed and satisfied with their lives and their rights, framing their system in a negative way does not have much weight to it.

  23. You can also be sure that the surveillance equipment that China sells to countries such as Ecuador is embedded with technology that enables China to collect data from that surveillance equipment. Never trust the Chinese.


    George Orwell predicted this in 1940s in his book 1984.


    ~George Orwell

  25. so much whataboutism in the comments, cant people just agree what the NSA does is bad and what this is about in China is bad, even worse the social credit scores ?

  26. It's the symbol of technical lagging of the west. West is more dectetor funding. A common man has nothing to be spied or not, he is only consult with his personal security where what tech is used. Its just a propoganda.

  27. 2500 years ago, the ancient sages of the Chinese had proved to the Chinese people that there was no God or any form of divine beings that should be worshipped. Since then, the Chinese have been the only secular civilisation. Today, 2019, the west is still a divine worshipping civilisation. Warmongers like Trump and John Bolton might have a dream about God asking them to invade another country or wipe out another civilisation.

  28. The most fundamental right of human rights is the right to have a peaceful existence. Till today, not a single White country is ready to accept that starting war, no matter for what kind of reason, is a crime against humanity.

  29. Luckily middle easterners are too dumb to even be able to operate a mouse, let alone setup and run an automated vision based surveillance system.

  30. WOW Whats the big friggin deal, you have no right to privacy in public spaces, furthermore, put on a hat and sunglasses if you're a criminal trying to evade capture lol stupid Fks

  31. les dejo un video para mostrar cómo NYT juega con las palabras para caluminiar China, un video evidenciado con datos y verdades. I put a video here that shows how NYT uses word tricks to slander the reputationof China, a video evidenced with facts and truths. Just imagine how many others documentary films are true.

  32. 80% of those cameras are likely too low resolution to get a good accuracy on identifying people who are more than 20ft away.

  33. Como ecuatoriano, la descripción que hacen del sistema de seguridad me causa mucha gracia porque se aleja de cómo fue usado en la práctica. Han inscrito una ficción sobre ciertos elementos incompletos de la realidad. Han descrito la forma en la que desearían que hubiese funcionado esos dispositivos para darle validez al postulado de líder autócrata y, con ello, acusar a china de una forma de imperialismo que curiosamente sí se ejecuta desde la geografía a la que corresponde las voces de los enunciantes. UN BUEN EJEMPLO DE REPORTAJE PERIODÍSTICO EN LA ERA DE LA POSVERDAD.

  34. As if USA isnt in bed with Saudi Arabia and other not so Democratic countries in middle east and across the world.
    Facknews much ?

  35. Because there murder people ? That’s what Because he is not good. The failing New York times. Please go outa biz because they take your license / permits away. Stop hurting the beautiful USA ??

  36. The issue isn't the tech, its that we can't trust bureaucrats with it. Bureaucrats have no place in our technocratic future.

  37. how were you even able to report on this dude! if I were you I would be afraid to get ummm lol by the government! omggg be safe bro… awesome reporting ??? by the way 🙂

    edit: this is scary-errr then a horror movie!!! omggg ?

  38. While the Corporate owned US state merely sells the world drones and bombs – plank out of own eye first shithole country

  39. @Jonah Kessel1 month ago (edited)Hi there —Jonah you are propaganda leader of the Evil Empire of the Satanic Death Cult- The Pentagon. U.S.A. is "Under Satanic Authority." and the Cult of American Hubris while calling China a evil surveillance state? Hypocritical to the ~Nth Degree.
    China is a Student of the Pentagon/ murder INC. who are Mass Murdering World Wide- U.S.A. has the distinction of CAUSING more DEATHS -yes, One Nation, under G-D, caused MORE DEATHS WORLD WIDE of ALL HISTORY.
    Read a little history, chump. What you spew is Pro Genocidal Propaganda.
    Read about AKTION T-4 by Nazi Germany, 1930, your same Propaganda has a Source Jonah.
    You plagiarise NAZI PROPAGANDA, and should be sued.

  40. Read a little history, chump. What you spew is Pro Genocidal Propaganda.
    Read about AKTION T-4 by Nazi Germany, 1930, your same Propaganda has a Source Jonah.
    You plagiarise NAZI PROPAGANDA, and should be sued.

  41. This is prison basically no freedom-utterly horrifying the most sophisticated technology and this is how it's used. Once again NOT for the good of humanity.

  42. why dont you guys talk about cia doing the same thing in other country and other place of be it usa or the other country

  43. Security is an excuse to control humanity and avoid opposition of the new world order agenda where nobody can buy and sell without a number. If humanity don't fight together against this new slavery system now it will be to late.

  44. This is the trend of the One World Government – the transfer of power to China and monetary control to the IMF. 5G provides the speed for this reality and also provide microwave technology to control crowds, plus using our personal security and smartphones as spying devices. The next step will be the use of single-bullet drones and "Minority Report" becomes a reality. Thank you POTUS & White Hats for turning a speed bump (Soros terminology) into a defensive wall

  45. The issue is not China, the cameras, the dictators, because none of them are actual news. The complicated part is our absolute incapability to manifest our will, to effectively change something, the news is that everybody already knows we can be monitored by any authority – domestic or foreign – and yet the dominant feeling is that we can do absolutely nothing about the current state of affairs unless we decide to move off the grid. Hopefully, that feeling can be proven wrong

  46. Notice the accusation that Putin is pursuing surveillance technology. Typical anti-russian propaganda. No, Putin is not a dictator and he is not trying to control Russia with technology. America however is surveilled by its own government and arrests those who speak out (Snowden, Assange).

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