University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady concerned break-ins linked to work on China 16 Feb, 2018 5:00am
A new research paper uncovers widespread Chinese links between former MPs, their families and political donations By: Matt Nippert
Business investigations reporter, NZ Herald
A New Zealand academic who made international waves researching China's international influence campaigns has linked a number of recent break-ins to her work.
University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady, speaking today from Christchurch to the Australian Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in Canberra, outlined three recent events which caused her concern.
"I had a break-in in my office last December. I received a warning letter, this week, that I was about to be attacked. And yesterday I had a break-in at my house," she said.
She said this weeks' burglary at her Upper Riccarton home was particularly suspicious.
"I had three laptops - including one used for work - stolen. And phones. [Other] valuables weren't taken. Police are now investigating that."
Brady also said her employer at Canterbury University had been pressured following earlier work on China's Antarctic policy and - following a recent visit to China - sources she had talked to were subjected to visits from authorities.
"People I've associated with in China, just last year, were questioned by the Chinese Ministry of State Security about their association with me."
These disclosures came after New South Wales MP Julian Leeser asked Brady whether her recent profile on the subject had resulted in any blowback.
"Has that been difficult for you personally, and have you felt any difficulties as a result of being outspoken about Chinese political influence?"
Her outspokenness became extremely public after she published in September a "Magic Weapons" paper using New Zealand as a case study in explaining China's extra-state exertion of influence.
The paper highlighted a river of campaign donations to governing parties, and how a cluster of former senior politicians - including former prime ministers and mayors - and family members of current government ministers had been appointed to boards of state-owned Chinese banks, companies and think tanks.
The research prompted Winston Peters, then on the campaign trail as leader of New Zealand First, to call for an inquiry and point to Australia's introduction of legislation to curb China's influence in domestic politics.
Brady was speaking to a parliamentary committee considering that legislation - that would amongst other things ban foreign donations to political parties - and said New Zealand's handling of the issue seemed to be lagging.
"We're a couple of years behind you on this journey," she said.
Brady told the committee China's non-state activity was co-ordinated under the banner of a "united front" and represented a broad attempt to sway both public opinion and political elite globally to support the rising superpower's assertive new foreign policy.
"Australia and New Zealand appear to have been a test zone for 'united front' activities in recent years. And it's now reached a critical level," she said.
Contacted for comment, the police, citing complaint privacy, declined to answer questions about Brady's break-ins.
Joined: 25 Jul 2005 Posts: 17304 Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:02 am Post subject:
‘I was locked inside a steel cage’: Peter Humphrey on his life inside a Chinese prison
In his first written account of the ordeal, the former corporate investigator looks back on 23 harrowing months in Chinese jail
In January 2013 the Anglo-American pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline received an anonymous email alleging widespread bribery of doctors and hospitals by its China operation. Two months later, it also received a secretly filmed sex tape featuring GSK’s China chief Mark Reilly. The company hired ChinaWhys, a risk-advisory firm based in Shanghai, to investigate Vivian Shi, its former head of government affairs, suspecting her at that time of a smear campaign.
ChinaWhys was run by Briton Peter Humphrey, a former journalist who had previously led China investigations for US risk consultancy Kroll and the accounting firm PwC, and his Chinese-born American wife Yu Yingzeng. Both were certified fraud investigators.
In June 2013, the Chinese government announced a bribery investigation into GSK China. In July, Humphrey and Yu were detained and charged with “illegally acquiring personal information” of Chinese nationals. The story received huge attention internationally and, in August 2013, the couple were paraded on state TV, purportedly confessing. In a note dictated from prison in March 2014 and seen by the FT, Humphrey accused GSK of having failed to fully disclose the corruption allegations against the company when he agreed to work for them.
In August 2014, he and Yu finally stood trial and were convicted and sentenced to 30 and 24 months in jail respectively. In a separate trial in September 2014, GSK China was found guilty of bribery and paid a fine of Ł297m, upon which its detained executives were released. Humphrey was released from prison under diplomatic pressure in June 2015 amid reports of ill health, and he and Yu left the country.
This is his first personal account of the 23 months they spent in captivity.
It was a powerful article, which aroused comparisons to my own ordeal and spurred me to read more widely about captivity. During the 23 months I spent imprisoned in China, on false charges that were never proven in court, I consumed about 140 books, including jailbird classics such as Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Dumas’ Man in the Iron Mask, Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and modern equivalents such as Marina Nemat’s Prisoner of Tehran. Mental fodder to help me endure my own predicament.
This “detention centre” was once one of China’s notorious — and supposedly now abolished — “education through labour” prisons for miscreants in the Communist party-ruled dictatorship. Today, they pretend to be custody centres but they are still punishment centres. Untried prisoners are condemned from day one, starting with the dire conditions they face when they arrive. The aim is to isolate, crush the spirit, break the will. Many crumble quickly.
My journey here began at the offices of my corporate investigation company in Shanghai on July 10 2013. I had living quarters there with my wife, Ying, and we were getting ready for our day. At 7am the Public Security Bureau (PSB) police flooded in, kicking our bedroom door into my face and injuring my neck. From that moment on, things moved ruthlessly fast: they ransacked the office, dismissed my staff, separated my wife and me from each other, and both of us from our teenage son Harvey. It would be two years before we were reunited.
Men in plain clothes drove us in unmarked black cars into the bowels of a hulking concrete building known as “803”, a feared headquarters of the Shanghai PSB. I was taken along underground corridors lined by dank interrogation cells, and through the gaps in doors saw prisoners slumped in metal chairs. When we reached my room, I sat in an interrogation chair with a lockable crossbar. PSB men came and went, asking questions about items found on our laptops. On a podium my confiscated mobile phone rang relentlessly but our son’s frantic calls to us went unanswered.
Peter Humphrey: my time in a Chinese prison
“Where did you get this?” “Where did you get that?” The interrogators’ questions were targeted. They knew what they wanted. As a business specialising in investigative work, we used code names. “Who’s this agent? And his phone number?” Fifteen hours later, we sped out of the building in the dead of night. Ying and I were again in separate black cars. There was no word on where we were going. As we rode into a slum off the Hunan Road, a PSB man handcuffed me, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t think you deserve this but I have orders from above.”
Prisoners were always delivered at night. It made them weaker, easier to break
At about 3am I was tossed into a sweltering cell. It was, I learnt, a ritual — new prisoners were always delivered at night. It reinforced the shock. Made them weaker. Easier to break, to extract confessions from. The warder shut the door with a clang and uncuffed me through the bars. “What’s up?” mumbled a sleepy voice in Chinese from under a mound of pink bedclothes. “A new guy,” said another. A man in boxer shorts came to the door. “Sleep there,” he said, dumping a dirty quilt on a narrow spot beside the toilet.
My head was bursting hot. Stunned and exhausted, I wept. Around the cell, shaved heads popped up like chicks from a nest to glimpse the commotion, then went back to sleep nonchalantly. A dozen or so bodies lay in rows on the rough boards, like sardines in cans with pink lids. A ceiling light burned brightly — in fact, it was never off. I felt winded. How could I sleep? Then suddenly it was light outside too. It must have crept up slowly but the new day came as a shock. My horror movie rolled to the next scene.
A low-pitched horn broke the silence. I hear it every day still. Bodies sat up. Warders on the corridor in pale-blue shirts banged on the bars. “Qilai, qilai.” “Get up!” At breakfast the gritty rice and the briny smell of pickle made me retch. Some men had sachets of “cereal” powder that they mixed with boiled water from an urn perched outside the bars. “Have one of my cereals,” said one inmate. Two men cleared the dishes and took them to the sink. Their actions were chores rostered to each detainee by the warder. Cleaning the floor, washing the dishes, scrubbing the toilet, stacking the boxes and quilts, emptying the urn twice a day for refilling, washing and folding the cloths. These jobs rotated each week.
The men exercised by circling the cell for 10 minutes like Tibetan pilgrims at a temple, minus the Buddhist chants. But this was no temple, just a floor five by three metres. The entrance and toilet added another two square metres. The toilet was a hole in the floor with a rusty flushing lever on the wall behind it. The sink was a heavy, cracked ceramic affair with a cold tap. Above it was a piece of shiny plastic, supposedly a mirror, warped so you couldn’t see a clear image. During 14 months here, I did not see my own face.
After the “stroll” came the toilet ritual. Orange vests sat on designated spots beside the wall. Red vests — new boys — faced the grille studying a brown rule book. We went to the toilet in turns, red vests last. Squatting over the hole I almost toppled as I reached for the flusher behind me. “To *, face forward; to piss, face the wall,” barked Li, the cell boss. “That way, it falls the right way without a mess. You did it the wrong way.” Over the next 10 days, like a dog yapping at my ankles, Li ordered me to do this and do that. To learn the rules.
Some of the men were kind; not all. On day 10, the warder ordered me to gather my things. “You are going home,” said Li. The other men echoed his pronouncement and told me to put on proper clothes and dump my red vest. My heart rose. When the warder fetched me, he barked at Li, who had cruelly conned me — I was only moving cell. My heart sank.
They moved me to Cell 203 and gave me an orange vest. My new boss was Liu, 34, sentenced to 13 years for illegally owning guns to shoot rabbits. “Most people here committed crimes for money,” said Liu. “But I am only here because of my hobby.” There were three Chinese in their late fifties like me, in the green vests worn by inmates with chronic illnesses. All three were wealthy businessmen, hostile to the political system. All were awaiting trial, accused of fraud; all claimed to have been framed. The cell was nicknamed “sick men’s cell” by the others; I called it “the billionaires’ cell”.
The aim is to crush the spirit, break the will. Many prisoners crumble quickly
Whatever the cell, the rituals were the same. During exercises, which were aired on a closed circuit overhead TV, we imitated jumps and stretches performed by three PE coaches, one male, two female — the closest my cellmates ever got to a woman. Then a white-coated patrol doctor came by our grille. Inmates raised health issues but they would be lucky to get a dollop of ointment for a sore foot, or an aspirin.
Next came “study time”. We sat cross-legged on red spots on the floor while the TV relayed “lessons” from the detention centre “propaganda department”. Sometimes it was the “propaganda director” preaching about good behaviour and analysing recent statistics: how many detainees had quarrelled or fought; how many inmates had argued with the guards or broken other rules, and been punished by isolation or prolonged squatting. Inmates sat quietly. Some would try sneak-reading a book. Others plotted how to handle their case, or dreamed. Nobody took “study” seriously, though sometimes we had to write a commentary on the session.
That was our life. A waiting game. No family visits. No letters home. Just brief messages to lawyers. No chance to orchestrate a real defence. Foreign prisoners could receive consular visits, to the envy of Chinese cellmates. Usha, the vice-consul who visited me regularly, and her assistant Susie, relayed messages to and from my family, brought books and magazines, and lobbied over my health. They were my angels. In the detention centre I developed symptoms of prostate cancer, a long hernia, skin rashes, anal infections and constant diarrhoea, and endured an injury to my spine inflicted during the raid. None was treated.
After seven months, Ying and I were finally allowed to exchange jailbird love letters. They took a month to travel 30 metres through the concrete and three layers of police censorship. We were not allowed to discuss our case. Some of our letters were blocked without telling us. But I reminded myself that the Chinese men had no such privilege.
After 13 months without trial, I finally went to court on August 8 2014, where Ying and I were charged with “illegally acquiring citizens’ information” (which we denied). That day also saw one of the most deeply distressing moments of the entire ordeal. The police had told me shortly before our trial that Ying had been informed of the recent death of her brother, Bernard. So, on the morning of our trial, when I saw her on the stairs in the courthouse, I expressed my condolences. The manner in which she broke down told me instantly that they had lied. She didn’t know. I believe they did this on purpose to destabilise us for the trial. We were predictably sent down, me for 30 months and Ying for 24.
From the moon, Qingpu Prison would look like a peaceful walled university campus with dorms, gardens, camphor trees, a soccer pitch and a parade ground. From my level, there were a dozen concrete cell blocks with barred windows, a prison theatre, an office block, a kitchen, a boiler house and a factory. The perimeter wall bristled with razor wire and was patrolled by armed PAP guards. It could hold 5,000-6,000 prisoners. It also “trained” prisoners for redistribution to other prisons.
Cell block eight was for foreign men, the adjacent block for Chinese. A tall iron fence sealed off a yard between the block’s wings. A bald middle-aged Malaysian lifer came to the gate and helped carry my prison bags. His nickname was MC. He was block eight’s “king rat”. He ran a Malaysian mafia that controlled all the food and job assignments at Qingpu.
“What are your thoughts?” a bespectacled senior officer asked me when I arrived. “I don’t know what you mean,” I replied. “What will you do here?” he asked. I did not realise his questions were euphemisms for, “Will you write the acknowledgment of guilt and ‘repentance report’?” that was required of all prisoners. “I can teach some English to your staff,” I said innocently. I was led to the “training cell” for new prisoners, and given blue-and-white-striped shorts and a white short-sleeved shirt with blue tabs, the summer prison uniform. I became prisoner number #42816.
There were frequent interrogations. I was locked in an iron chair inside a steel cage
My cell held 12 prisoners. We slept on iron bunks with wooden planks and a cotton “mattress” one-and-a-half inches thick, covered with a coarse striped sheet. The barred windows were never closed. Winter was freezing. “I am the cell leader,” said a wiry young African, one of many Nigerians there, most convicted of drug smuggling and serving life terms.
I spoke next to a Captain Liu. “What are your thoughts?” he said in broken English in a small interview room with bars separating us. My first thought was, “Here we go again.”
“I am innocent and I will not admit any crime,” I said. “If I have to stay here, I will use my time to read. I can help teach people English if you want me to. I want to know about the sentence-reduction system.”
Liu seemed awkward dealing with a grey-haired Englishman about his own age. “Studying is a privilege, not a right. You should write confession and repentance reports,” he said. He was more civilised than most warders and I think he genuinely hoped to have a good rapport with me. I disappointed him.
“I will not write any of that,” I said. “And I demand medical treatment for my ailments, including my prostate.”
Zhang led me back to the cell. In the corridors and stairs other prisoners appeared. They smiled and nodded at me. On our corridor an African inmate tried to chat. “They told us all not to talk to you,” he said. “They said you are an MI6 spy. None of us believes it. We saw your trial on TV. We have been waiting for you. You are a hero. If you need anything, tell us, we will help you,” he said, ignoring Zhang and Chen, who fluttered and clucked like anxious hens.
I had brought no toiletries, having been told I would get new ones. Instead, I had to buy them and I had no prison account, even though my warders handed over the money from my detention centre account to the prison. The officers also banned me from sending letters to family, making phone calls or using the prison shopping system. But I soon found a pile of things on my bunk — tissues, laundry powder, biscuits, coffee sachets, a small towel, two plastic rice bowls, pens and notepaper. Inmates dropped these things there as anonymous charity donations.
Zhang and Chen led me to my first supper in the “workroom”, where some 120 prisoners occupied rows of tables with backless, immovable seats attached. As I walked in, all eyes were on me, along with those of six officers. The food was warm here, sometimes hot. A standard dinner was a bowl of steamed rice, almost grit-free, stir-fry including a meat and a vegetable, and a thin soup. The Ritz! MC’s gang served one cell at a time, ladling food from battered trays.
Peter Humphrey with his wife Ying at their Surrey home, 2017
After a final roll-call at 9pm, the barred cell door was locked and trusted prisoners from a Chinese block stood watch on the corridor to report nefarious activity or suicide bids. The ceiling light was kept on all night. We awoke at 6am. One of us cleaned the toilet area before the others rose.
A warder unlocked the cell and the men trooped down to the yard with Thermoses to collect boiled water for hot drinks or washing. Two flasks per man. For breakfast we ate plain rice congee or a steamed bun with salt pickles, and, every Sunday, a boiled egg. There was half-an-hour of exercise in the open air before breakfast in a yard the size of a basketball pitch.
After a few days, nice Captain Liu vanished and word flew round that young Captain Wei would manage our cell. Wei was notorious for persecuting inmates and stirring up incidents that led prisoners to get a beating and to be dragged off screaming to solitary, which I witnessed over and over again. “They are sending him here because of you,” I was told. Indeed, Wei summoned me several times a week for a “talk”. He tried to provoke my anger, insulted me, ordered me to write confessions, threatened me with an extended sentence or solitary if I refused. I never yielded.
Every week I cited my medical problems and demanded proper examinations and treatment for my prostate. “But you haven’t confessed,” he would say. He staged searches and threw all my things out of my bunk drawers across the cell. He often removed my private diary, so I played cat and mouse, keeping my notebook on my person. I agreed to write a separate monthly “record of my progress” for him, but I only listed his abuses. He would write “good” on each page like a teacher. He obviously did not understand my handwritten English.
The prison was a business, doing manufacturing jobs for companies. Mornings, afternoons and often during the after-lunch nap, prisoners “laboured” in the common room. Our men made packaging parts. I recognised well-known brands — 3M, C&A, H&M. So much for corporate social responsibility, though the companies may well have been unaware that prison labour was part of their supply chain. Prisoners from Chinese cell blocks worked in our factory making textiles and components. They marched there like soldiers before our breakfast and returned late in the evening. The foreigners who laboured in my cell block were Africans and Asians with no money from family, and no other way to buy toiletries and snacks. It was piece work; a hundred of this, a thousand of that. Full-time, they earned about Yn120 (Ł13.50) a month. But it was also about points. There was a sentence-reduction system based on points earned through labour — work such as floor cleaning, food serving, teaching and approved study. Snitching also earned favourable treatment.
Our life was a waiting game. No family visits. No letters home. Just brief messages to lawyers
Once or twice a year a list of prisoners went up showing who had earned reductions. Those on long terms crowded around, praying their name was on the board. Many were disappointed. Reductions had become rarer since President Xi Jinping had taken power in early 2013. Before that, a 10-year term might be cut to seven. Under Xi you would be lucky to get one year taken off. I never qualified because I boycotted the thought reports. The officers refused to explain the system to me anyway.
Between bouts of persecution by Wei, I read books and newspapers sent by my Rotary Club community, and books from the prison “library” shelves managed by Stern Hu, a China-born Australian. Stern had led the China office of mining giant Rio Tinto before his arrest in 2009 on murky allegations of espionage and bribery, as China fought Australia over the price of iron ore. Ironically, I had commentated on his case on CNN at the time. Now I was his jailmate. Tall and aristocratic-looking, hair whitened by captivity, he was highly educated and very kind. He provided me with some of his warm clothing in winter and helped me with Chinese letter writing and reading. He was struggling with heart disease, and I worry about his health to this day.
Every encounter was an education. I had spent 15 years helping to prosecute fraudsters. Now, in prison, I met many people who might easily have been my investigation targets, but who I came to believe did not deserve such harsh sentences. I came away from my captivity with sympathy for both the innocent and the guilty.
My consular saviours — Roslyn, who took over from Usha, and Susie — brought letters and books from relatives and friends each month, and relayed my complaints to the prison and the authorities. One day, they brought me a copy of the United Nations treaties on imprisonment and torture that I had requested. These confirmed to me that China failed to comply with most of the standards of treatment (on nutrition, sleep, labour, health, contact with family, etc) required by international laws that China had signed, and I urged my consul to complain. I shared the treaties among the inmates. Handwritten copies proliferated. Some of the men started citing the treaties in complaints to the governor. The officers began to grow uneasy and I could sense that some wanted to get shot of me. Wei continued to threaten me with solitary and made efforts to ban me from sitting down anywhere.
In April 2015, something shifted. Consular lobbying and my relentless complaints forced the prison to send me for a PSA blood test and an MRI at a local hospital. Wei used the moment to parade me in front of the public at hospital in handcuffs and prison uniform. But the MRI result was a milestone. Within weeks, they had to admit that I had a tumour in my prostate, although they concealed the result of the the blood test. The next step should have been a biopsy. Instead, they began to fake the paperwork for a sentence reduction for good behaviour.
It emerged from this that the real commander of cell block eight was one Captain Shang. He, and eventually the prison governor, spent long sessions pleading with me to sign an admission of guilt so that I could leave prison with Ying, whose sentence would expire on July 9 that year. “Even your wife could get a small reduction too,” said Shang. He and I argued over the wording of a compromise statement that I would sign to satisfy the paperwork. He went back and forth to his superiors with my position. I finally signed a statement expressing qualified, conditional remorse if I had done anything wrong but not admitting that I had done anything wrong at all. Somehow they fudged it.
I came away from my captivity with sympathy for both the innocent and the guilty
On June 4 2015, the prison smuggled me to the Shanghai Prison Hospital where I never saw a doctor but where they pretended I was getting medical attention for five days. The vice-governor came to me with a Gillette Turbo razor and begged me to use it. In my final act before leaving Qingpu, I shaved.
On June 9, they released Ying and me into house arrest in the Magnotel, a small hotel that sources said belonged to the security apparatus, pending our deportation. On June 17, the PSB men who had originally arrested and interrogated us in 2013 conveyed us to Pudong Airport to deport us on a Virgin flight to London. Just before we climbed aboard, the PSB handed us a bill for our nine-day stay in the Magnotel. We didn’t have the cash with us, so we signed an “IOU”.
After deportation to the UK in 2015, Peter Humphrey was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and spent 18 months in cancer treatment and one year in PTSD treatment. He fought a 21-month legal battle against the Home Office over Yu’s right to stay in the UK and won in court. He filed a detailed report to the Beijing government on Shanghai’s abuse of China’s judicial system and awaits a reaction. He and his wife have filed suit against GSK in US courts on racketeering charges. His damaged health has prevented his return to business and he has reverted to his journalistic and academic roots as a sinologist and writer. He was banned from China for 10 years but does not rule out a return when conditions are favourable.
Doing business in Xi’s China
Peter Humphrey during his “confession” on Chinese state TV, August 27 2013
When Peter Humphrey was arrested by Chinese police in July 2013, the world still knew very little about China’s new president and Communist party general secretary, Xi Jinping.
It seems naive now, but five years ago many people hoped Xi’s administration would press ahead with difficult economic and perhaps even political reforms. The cases brought against Humphrey, his wife Yu Yingzeng and their corporate client GSK were some of the first indications that the international business community was about to enter uncharted territory as Xi quickly established himself as China’s most powerful leader in decades.
GSK was one of the first corporate casualties of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which has been unprecedented in scope. Shanghai police charged the UK company’s staff with paying doctors billions of dollars in kickbacks.
Humphrey, a former Reuters reporter turned private investigator, was charged with illegally obtaining private information. His case was never officially connected to the GSK investigation, but few people doubted that he had appeared on the authorities’ radar because of his work for the UK pharmaceutical giant.
Humphrey’s ordeal also presaged a dramatic deterioration in China’s human rights environment.
His “confession” while under detention, which was broadcast by state television long before his trial, is now a common tactic employed in government prosecutions of Chinese human-rights lawyers, labour organisers and other activists.
By Tom Mitchell in Beijing
Inside China’s prison system
According to the Ministry of Justice, under which the Bureau of Prison Administration operates, there are about 700 corrections facilities throughout China. The official reported rate of incarceration is 119 per 100,000, with 1,649,804 sentenced prisoners, but this statistic excludes pre-trial detainees and those held in administrative detention.
A 2009 report from the deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate found that an additional 650,000 prisoners were held in detention centres throughout China.
Although the Chinese government officially states that its correctional institutions do not use torture as a method to extract information, a Human Rights Watch report from 2015, quoted in a US State Department report, found “continued widespread use of degrading treatment and torture by law enforcement authorities” and revealed: “Some courts continued to admit coerced confessions as evidence, despite the criminal procedure law, which restricts the use of unlawfully obtained evidence.”
The state department report went on to note “a lack of due process in judicial proceedings, political control of courts and judges, closed trials, the use of administrative detention, failure to protect refugees and asylum seekers, extrajudicial disappearances of citizens, restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), discrimination against women, minorities, and persons with disabilities”.
Australia’s complicated relationship with China is in the throes of a long overdue reset. A stream of reports about Chinese Communist Party influence in Australian politics and civil society have led Australians to take a second look at the country's largest trading partner. The government’s anti-foreign interference laws are a necessary and reasonable response. It should be entirely uncontroversial that people in Australia not have their freedoms constrained by a foreign power.
But I think it’s worth noting that Australian journalism has had a big role to play in dragging this problem into the light, at a time it’s been under almost existential threat itself. And because the law cannot and should not criminalise every dubious act of foreign state influence, journalism has a continuing role in making sure the grey areas are held up to the light.
Yes, I’m a journalist, so I would say that. I know it’s a limited and imperfect craft. It's particularly complicated when sources for some of the reporting won't go on the record, as is common with these sorts of stories.
But sensible, careful journalism is, let’s say, a 'magic weapon' in this necessary fight, because it is about transparency and exposure - the antithesis of the CCP’s covert, coercive and unacknowledged influence operations. As the Jamestown Foundation’s Chinese intelligence expert Peter Mattis told me in an interview last week, the CCP’s influence work is not going to stop because a new law says so.
In sending this little herogram to journalism, I am by no means discounting the pioneering work of academics like Swinburne’s John Fitzgerald, who must have felt lonely for some time. Fitzgerald’s articles from a few years back about censorship in ABC Chinese language programming and early concern over China’s covert influence building in Australia were crucial canaries in the coalmine.
Credit where it’s due: the landmark joint Fairfax/Four Corners report in June this year by Nick McKenzie, Chris Uhlmann, Richard Baker, Sashka Koloff and (now Interpreter editor) Daniel Flitton kicked along the discussion in a big way, revealing concern by ASIO about the role of wealthy Chinese citizens who were major political donors in Australia. But this built on a lot of good reporting done on the topic, and before most but a handful of specialists had any grasp on the issue.
My former Fairfax colleagues, Beijing correspondents John Garnaut and Philip Wen, did a hell of a lot to bring this issue to light. Garnaut wrote about the CCP building networks of informants in Australian universities in this excellent piece in 2014 (and was angrily denounced by the Chinese consulate days later) and in 2015 produced this illuminating investigation into generous political donor Chau Chak Wing in 2015.
Phil Wen wrote this enlightening piece almost two years ago about Huang Xiangmo and the circumstances under which he left China; took a long look at the commercial deals Fairfax and other media organisations made with China’s Central Propaganda Department in early 2016; and signalled the new significance of the now notorious Australia China Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China in April 2016 with its abrupt intervention on the South China Sea issue around the same time.
I am going to immodestly spruik my own modest contribution in laying out, with Phil Wen, in mid-2016, various means by which Australian Chinese language media was brought into the CCP fold and question marks around the wisdom of having a Confucius Institute installed in the NSW Department of Education.
Fairfax journalist Latika Bourke first broke the Sam Dastyari story in August 2016, revealing he had a Chinese donor pick up a travel entitlement. In Primrose Riordan’s consistently good work at the Australian Financial Review and now The Australian, she was the first to reveal that Dastyari’s quid pro quo for Huang’s donations was a CCP-endorsed line on disputed areas in the South China Sea; and she has raised good questions around Andrew Robb’s post-politics role, among other things.
As the story has snowballed, Australian correspondents in China have contributed significantly to understanding of our great and powerful trading partner and its activities here: the ABC’s Matthew Carney, Bill Birtles and his predecessor Stephen McDonnell; the Fin’s Angus Grigg and Lisa Murray, Fairfax’s Kirsty Needham; The Australian’s Rowan Callick; as has ANU student Alex Joske who has lately been doing work for Fairfax and also, evidently, for Clive Hamilton’s yet-to-be-published book on the topic. There will be dozens more examples and I look forward to my many omissions being diligently corrected by Interpreter readers.
Understanding China is one thing, being able to unearth previously-unknown facts and communicate that to the public in comprehensible shorthand is another. It’s even harder as newsrooms get leaner and faster. There is a risk that corporate interests that want to ensure productive relationships with Chinese interests will squeeze the media space for robust investigation and discussion even further.
20 MARCH 2018 • 8:46AM
President Xi Jinping delivered a blistering nationalist speech Tuesday, warning against any attempts to split China and touting the country's readiness to fight "the bloody battle" to regain its rightful place in the world.
Mr Xi's address capped an annual session of the National People's Congress that paved the way for him to rule for life, as China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong pushes through his vision of guiding the country through a "new era" of unrivalled global military and economic supremacy.
Days after President Donald Trump signed new rules allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan, Mr Xi warned that Beijing would defend its "one China principle", which sees the self-ruling island as its territory awaiting reunification.
"All acts and tricks to separate the country are doomed to fail and will be condemned by the people and punished by history," Mr Xi told nearly 3,000 delegates assembled at the imposing Great Hall of the People facing Tiananmen Square.
But he also sought to address concerns about ambitious Chinese development projects abroad, saying they "will not pose a threat to any country."
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People on March 20
"Only those who are accustomed to threatening others will see everyone as a threat," he added in an address that drew waves of applause from the legislators.
China is overseeing a massive global trade infrastructure initiative to revive the ancient Silk Road, drawing interest from nations participating in the investment but also criticism from others fearing that it mainly serves Beijing's interests.
The Chinese leader's plan to build a "world-class" military by mid-century has also raised concerns about how it plans to use its increasingly modern forces amid regional frictions over China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Mr Xi used the speech to espouse his vision of realising the "rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" - the "greatest dream" of the world's second-largest economy.
"The Chinese people have been indomitable and persistent, we have the spirit of fighting the bloody battle against our enemies to the bitter end," he said.
But his speech was also a reminder that the Communist Party, more than ever, reigns over the country's affairs.
"History has already proven and will continue to prove that only socialism can save China," he said.
China's Defense Ministry said China will strengthen its defense capability and defend its sovereignty and territory, days after a US Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation” operation in the disputed South China Sea.
China's sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea is beyond question, the ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said on Thursday's briefing.
China resolutely opposes the US action, as they harm military relations between the two countries, causing close encounters between the countries' air forces and navies, which could lead to misjudgment and even accidents, Ren said.
On March 23, a guided missile destroyer, the USS Mustin, arbitrarily entered waters surrounding islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Two Chinese vessels later identified it and warned it off, Ren said.
It is the second US navigation in two months. On Jan. 17, the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, made an arbitrary entry into the waters surrounding Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.
Ren said such behavior is a serious political and military provocation, which will only drive the Chinese military to continue to improve its defense capabilities.
Earlier this week, Reuters reported that dozens of Chinese naval ships are conducting exercises with an aircraft carrier in a large drill off Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Satellite photos acquired by Reuters showed at least 40 ships and submarines flanking the carrier Liaoning in the exercises.
When answering the questions concerning the naval drill, the spokesman said the drill is planned and routine to increase the military capability, and it is not designated to target any specific countries, he said.
China's Navy will update the movement on the Liaoning aircraft carrier, he added.
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
By RACHEL BOTSMAN Saturday 21 October 2017
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.
Prior to its national roll-out in 2020, the Chinese government 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 Ł565) 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 (Ł5,700), 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 b****** 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.
"People with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants and the removal of the right to travel"
Rachel Botsman, author of ‘Who Can You Trust?’
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.
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 (Ł68bn).
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.
When I tell westerners about the Social Credit System 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
Special report: China’s ‘social credits’ project Giving citizens grades to restore trust could be a way of exerting more control Simon Leplâtre, Églises d'Asie
China June 19, 2018
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Suqian, in Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, is one of some 30 Chinese cities to have mounted a “social credits” project. Its five million residents have, since April 30, been testing this measure, which gives individuals and enterprises a “trust rating.”While the stated objective of the project’s designers is to restore citizens’ trust in Chinese society and in their fellow countrymen and women, it is feared that this could be a particularly advanced system of social control.The yellow characters against a red background shining on the giant screen at the entrance to the Suqian mayor’s office spell out a variety of slogans.Some exhort citizens to be civil (wenming), polite and honest. One of them stands out. It proclaims that “trustworthy people can walk calmly under the skies, those who are unworthy of walking calmly under the skies, those who are not trustworthy, cannot make a single step.”The city of Suquian and its five million residents in the heart of Jiangsu, a coastal province north of Shanghai, want to be a model of civility.But the wish goes beyond mere slogans. On April 20, the city gave all its residents a “trust rating,” a way to measure the honesty of its inhabitants and encourage them to be good citizens.Suqian is one of about 30 pilot cities in China that are implementing a “social credits” project.The aim is to improve the credibility of the people and restore trust in a country where it is all too often lacking, according to the designers of the project, which was made official in 2014.By 2020, China would like to extend these test projects to the rest of the country, arousing fears of an extremely advanced system of social control.This is a dictator’s dream at a time when President Xi Jinping and his administration have reinforced the Communist Party’s control over society and civil society, including religions, since he became president in 2014.But the actual implementation of these plans is still unclear because many different models are being tested. The hypothesis of one day seeing Chinese citizens rated on their behaviour, tastes and online purchases, as has been reported in certain media — sometimes based on vague official statements — has little chance of seeing the light of day.A dedicated mobile app Even if rating citizens is the issue that causes the most anxiety, particularly among human rights groups, the bulk of the efforts have focused on companies. The system for rating companies is by far the most advanced. It has been tested in Suqian but also in Shanghai, for example.In Suqian, in many sectors, companies must present their ratings to bid for official tenders.Private agencies are accredited to audit these companies and attribute a rating to them. The aim is to improve transparency and make the companies responsible.However, this policy is not unrelated to personal credits since a company’s errors (unpaid debt, violation of environmental norms, etc.) can be extremely costly for its leaders, who then find themselves on blacklists, which prevents them from taking high-speed trains or planes.The aim is to prevent rogue directors convicted in one province from slipping through the cracks and reopening a company in a neighbouring province due to lack of coordination between localities.In Suqian, only people who wish to open a company are concerned about the system.Most inhabitants polled said they were unaware that they had been rated. They had sometimes heard of the system of social credits but knew nothing more about it.At the mayor’s office, a single window, visited mostly by entrepreneurs, provided information about the credits.To open a business, the prospective entrepreneur has to uplift a certificate from the mayor’s office showing that he or she has broken no rule, has no police record and is not in debt.However, that certificate does not give an overall score. Even if most of the criteria are the same, it is different from the trust rating awarded to each inhabitant of Suqian.To find out this famous rating, you need to launch an application on a dedicated smartphone. A young municipal employee shows us the app on her mobile phone: she has 1,020 points.On April 20, all inhabitants received a score of 1,000 points unless they had a police record.As time goes by, good or bad actions will make the score change. Donating blood adds 50 points to it.The same goes for a volunteering mission, a model-worker award or a “good Samaritan” one (helping someone in distress).On the other hand, paying your telephone, water or electricity bills late can cost you 40 to 80 points.Religion included in criteria at RongchengAnother infraction that costs you points is crossing when the pedestrian stoplight is on red. In Suqian, dozens of major intersections are equipped with facial recognition cameras.Pedestrians who cross on red are photographed and lose 20 points off their score; but the punishment does not stop there: their faces and part of their identity cards are shown on the three-square-metre screens installed at these intersections.As in the days of the pillory, offenders are presented there as examples not to be followed by the inhabitants of Suqian.In another locality that is testing the system, Rongcheng (in Shandong province, north of Jiangsu and also on the coast), religion has been included in the criteria.In one of the city’s neighborhoods, residents have decided to add penalties for people not taking care of their aged parents, those who slander others on line and those who “illegally spread religion,” Foreign Policy magazine reports.This decision mirrors a campaign to control religion in China and destroy illegal places of worship.Chinese authorities feel that such a system is necessary to restore trust in a society that has lost its values, explains Lin Junyue, the theoretician of the system of social credits in China, who has been working on it since the late 1990s.“According to a recent study by the Academy of Social Sciences in China, 70 percent of Chinese have no trust in their compatriots or public institutions,” said Lin, who now heads the credit system section of the China Market Society, a governmental think tank.“In the past, China was founded on communism with a system of strict control, but since the period of reform and opening [from 1978] people need to believe in something.“Whether it’s religion or communism, one needs to have faith in something, and to fear something if you’ve done something bad, for trust to reign.”Citizen AAA The opening up of China’s economy has been a relief but also a significant social upheaval.The cultural revolution at the end of Mao Zedong’s reign had destabilized Chinese society, but the progressive opening up of the country and the relaxation of ideological and social control under Deng Xiao Ping had perverse effects.With the development of private enterprise, all types of scams flourished in the 1980s and 1990s.“China entered the market economy without establishing a system of trust. The period of reforms came, people got rich, but trust is still not there,” said Lin Junyue.Communist China, which has silently embraced capitalism, hopes, with the good and bad points, to restore trust in society. In Suqian, good and bad points have an influence on everyone’s score.The highest score, 1,250 points, earns you a triple-A rating, which raises you to “model-of-trust” rank. That gives you access to reductions on your transport card or free tickets for the swimming pool or sports rooms.However, the young municipal employee had never seen that. “It’s the early stages. I think everyone has about 1,000 points for now,” she said.Everyone, that is, except those who have already been convicted by a court. They begin with a score that is 100 to 300 points lower, according to the severity of the conviction.“Many people come to see us because they realize they are on a blacklist, that they can no longer take the high-speed train and want to know why,” said the employee.For now, however, the system is working only in one direction. While court convictions make you lose points, points lost by pedestrians who cross on red or people who do not sort out their garbage properly (a measure taken into account in Shenzhen, close to Canton) cannot send you onto a black list. The social credits system is therefore, for now, just an incentive.
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‘Forget the Facebook leak’: China is mining data directly from workers’ brains on an industrial scale
Government-backed surveillance projects are deploying brain-reading technology to detect changes in emotional states in employees on the production line, the military and at the helm of high-speed trains
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 9:02pm
Expanded traffic surveillance programme in Shenzhen will identify and fine violators, including those driving without a valid license
On the surface, the production lines at Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric look like any other.
Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors.
But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company.
The company said it could increase the overall efficiency of the workers by manipulating the frequency and length of break times to reduce mental stress.
Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric is just one example of the large-scale application of brain surveillance devices to monitor people’s emotions and other mental activities in the workplace, according to scientists and companies involved in the government-backed projects.
Concealed in regular safety helmets or uniform hats, these lightweight, wireless sensors constantly monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage.
The devices can be fitted into the cap of a train driver. Photo: Deayea Technology
The technology is in widespread use around the world but China has applied it on an unprecedented scale in factories, public transport, state-owned companies and the military to increase the competitiveness of its manufacturing industry and to maintain social stability.
It has also raised concerns about the need for regulation to prevent abuses in the workplace.
The technology is also in use at in Hangzhou at State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power, where it has boosted company profits by about 2 billion yuan (US$315 million) since it was rolled out in 2014, according to Cheng Jingzhou, an official overseeing the company’s emotional surveillance programme.
“There is no doubt about its effect,” Cheng said.
Chinese weapons lab scans travellers with missile technology
The company and its roughly 40,000 employees manage the power supply and distribution network to homes and businesses across the province, a task that Cheng said they were able to do to higher standards thanks to the surveillance technology.
But he refused to offer more details about the programme.
Zhao Binjian, a manger of Ningbo Shenyang Logistics, said the company was using the devices mainly to train new employees. The brain sensors were integrated in virtual reality headsets to simulate different scenarios in the work environment.
“It has significantly reduced the number of mistakes made by our workers,” Zhao said, because of “improved understanding” between the employees and company.
But he did not say why the technology was limited to trainees.
Shenzhen police can now identify drivers using facial recognition surveillance cameras
The company estimated the technology had helped it increase revenue by 140 million yuan in the past two years.
One of the main centres of the research in China is Neuro Cap, a central government-funded brain surveillance project at Ningbo University.
The programme has been implemented in more than a dozen factories and businesses.
Jin Jia, associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University’s business school, said a highly emotional employee in a key post could affect an entire production line, jeopardising his or her own safety as well as that of others.
“When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake,” she said.
Jin said workers initially reacted with fear and suspicion to the devices.
“They thought we could read their mind. This caused some discomfort and resistance in the beginning,” she said.
“After a while they got used to the device. It looked and felt just like a safety helmet. They wore it all day at work.”
Jin said that at present China’s brain-reading technology was on a par with that in the West but China was the only country where there had been reports of massive use of the technology in the workplace. In the United States, for example, applications have been limited to archers trying to improve their performance in competition.
The unprecedented amount of data from users could help the system improve and enable China to surpass competitors over the next few years.
Jaywalkers under surveillance in Shenzhen soon to be punished via text messages
With improved speed and sensitivity, the device could even become a “mental keyboard” allowing the user to control a computer or mobile phone with their mind.
The research team confirmed the device and technology had been used in China’s military operations but declined to provide more information.
The technology is also being used in medicine.
Ma Huajuan, a doctor at the Changhai Hospital in Shanghai, said the facility was working with Fudan University to develop a more sophisticated version of the technology to monitor a patient’s emotions and prevent violent incidents.
In additional to the cap, a special camera captures a patient’s facial expression and body temperature. There is also an array of pressure sensors planted under the bed to monitor shifts in body movement.
“Together this different information can give a more precise estimate of the patient’s mental status,” she said.
The integration of mass surveillance and new digital technologies is unnerving
Ma said the hospital welcomed the technology and hoped it could warn medical staff of a potential violent outburst from a patient.
She said the patients had been informed that their brain activities would be under surveillance, and the hospital would not activate the devices without a patient’s consent.
Deayea, a technology company in Shanghai, said its brain monitoring devices were worn regularly by train drivers working on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail line, one of the busiest of its kind in the world.
The sensors, built in the brim of the driver’s hat, could measure various types of brain activities, including fatigue and attention loss with an accuracy of more than 90 per cent, according to the company’s website.
If the driver dozed off, for instance, the cap would trigger an alarm in the cabin to wake him up.
Brain-monitoring technology is in widespread use around the world but China has applied it on an unprecedented scale in factories, public transport, state-owned companies and the military. Photo: AFP
Qiao Zhian, professor of management psychology at Beijing Normal University, said that while the devices could make businesses more competitive the technology could also be abused by companies to control minds and infringe privacy, raising the spectre of “thought police”.
Thought police were the secret police in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, who investigated and punished people for personal and political thoughts not approved of by the authorities.
“There is no law or regulation to limit the use of this kind of equipment in China. The employer may have a strong incentive to use the technology for higher profit, and the employees are usually in too weak a position to say no,” he said.
China’s only weapon in AI race is its huge population, study finds
The US’ Hybrid War on OBOR is evolving to the point where the violent phase of this strategy might more easily be defeated by China’s many Silk Road partners than ever before, but these targeted states could still be caught equally unaware by the secondary infowar phase of this destabilization campaign if they aren’t careful. China conceives of itself as being the torchbearer of economic globalization and consequently free trade, but ironically, this means that business have the choice whether or not to trade with it, and if so, via which means. The manufacturing of false narratives pertaining to the security of CPEC and China’s other Silk Road corridors is very dangerous because it could easily lead to investors and entrepreneurs choosing to continue trading with the People’s Republic through the Strait of Malacca and across the South China Sea, thereby nullifying the strategic reason for OBOR’s cross-Eurasian mainland connectivity projects that were always intended to avoid putting China under the blackmailing influence of the powerful US Navy.
The American plan is to have China commit hundreds of billions of dollars to Eastern Hemispheric infrastructure projects and then provoke low-intensity and cost-effective Hybrid Wars in its many Silk Road partners so that it can have the basis on which to build a prolonged infowar campaign against them. This in turn could cause international investors and entrepreneurs to stay away from the country and stick to using US Navy-controlled maritime routes through the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea to trade with China, thus making it more difficult for the host nation to service its Chinese debt. This would accordingly drive the country closer to China, though this relationship might become uncomfortable after a period of time just like Myanmar’s did in the 2000s and give rise to a US-encouraged populist/nationalist (“Trumpist”) movement.
The end result is that China might never receive a return on its investments in the regime-changed state if a new pro-American “Trumpist” government defaults because Beijing has no means to enforce payment compliance, and the cumulative effect of this could be macro-economically disastrous if it’s timed to coincide with other such happenings elsewhere in the world, especially the countries where China has invested the most. Not only that, but the “economic nationalism” component of “Trumpism” could lead to a situation where China loses its previous de-facto free trade privileges in the ports and other points of access that it helped finance, despite how mutually destructive of a policy this would be for its former “partner” to commence (though the EU’s US-influenced sanctions prove that vassals will enact self-inflicted damage in order to please the hegemon). It goes without saying that the aforementioned strategy could kill the Silk Road if it succeeds and possibly even cause domestic political problems in China, which is why the People’s Republic must urgently improve its perception management operations abroad in order to defend itself from this doomsday scenario.
The government blocked 17.5 million would-be plane passengers from buying tickets last year as a punishment for offences including the failure to pay fines, it emerged.
Some 5.5 million people were also barred from travelling by train under a controversial “social credit” system which the ruling Communist Party claims will improve public behaviour.
The penalties are part of efforts by president ‘s government to use data-processing and other technology to tighten control on society.
Human rights activists warn the system is too rigid and may lead to people being unfairly blacklisted without their knowledge, while US vice-president Mike Pence as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life”.
Authorities have experimented with social credit in parts of China since 2014. Points are deducted for breaking the law, but also, in some areas, for offences as minor as walking a dog without a lead.
Offences punished last year also included false advertising and violating drug safety rules, said China’s National Public Credit Information Centre. It gave no details of how many people live in areas with social credit systems.
Social credit is one facet of efforts by the ruling party to take advantage of increased computing power, artificial intelligence and other technology to track and control the Chinese public.
In 2000 the police ministry launched an initiative dubbed “Golden Shield” to build a nationwide digital network to track individuals.
The ruling party is spending heavily to roll out facial recognition systems, and human rights activists say people in Muslim and other areas with high ethnic minority populations have been compelled to give blood samples for a genetic database.
Those systems rely heavily on foreign technology, which has prompted criticism of US and European suppliers for enabling human rights abuses.
This week Massachusetts-based company Thermo Fisher Scientific said it would no longer sell or service genetic sequencers in the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang following criticism of their use for surveillance.
It also emerged this week that a Chinese company had been tracking the movements of 2.5 million people in the province, using police checkpoints and security cameras to record location data in a system .
More than one million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Islamic minorities in Xinjiang have been interned in concentration camps, according to the United Nations.
VIDEO: REUTERS PUBLISHED MAR 22, 2019,
SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - An explosion at a pesticide plant in eastern China has killed 62 people and left 94 others seriously injured, state media said late on Friday (March 22), the latest casualties in a series of industrial accidents that has angered the public.
The blast occurred on Thursday at the Chenjiagang Industrial Park in the city of Yancheng, in Jiangsu province, and the fire was finally brought under control at 3am on Friday, state television said. 28 people remain missing.
The fire at a plant owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighbouring factories. Children at a kindergarten in the vicinity were also injured in the blast, media reported.
The cause of the explosion is under investigation, but the company - which produces more than 30 organic chemical compounds, some of which are highly flammable - had been cited and fined for work safety violations in the past, the China Daily said.
A man who gave his surname as Wang said his 66-year-old mother died after her house located half a kilometre away from the plant collapsed on her on the impact of the explosion, Apple Daily reported.
It was "like a bomb, an atomic bomb", Mr Wang described.
Smoke billows from a fire following an explosion at the pesticide plant owned by Tianjiayi Chemical, in Xiangshui county, Yancheng, Jiangsu province, China, on March 21, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Lu Peiyu, who lives about 2km away from the site, said the blast cracked the walls of his house, shattered the windows, and even "the door was gone". He described an acrid smell shortly after the plant blew up.
The impact of the blast could be felt as far as 30km with shaking glass doors reported.
President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, ordered all-out efforts to care for the injured and to "earnestly maintain social stability", state television said.
The authorities must step up action to prevent such incidents from happening and find out the cause of the blast as quickly as possible, Mr Xi added.
"There have recently been a series of major accidents, and all places and relevant departments must fully learn the lessons from these," the report cited him as saying.
The Jiangsu environmental protection bureau said in a late Thursday statement that the environmental monitoring station in the area had found no abnormal concentrations of toluene, xylene or benzene.
Concentrations of acetone and chloroform outside the perimeter of the explosion zone were also within normal limits, it added.
Jiangsu will launch inspections on chemical producers and warehouses, according to an emergency notice published by official media on Friday.
The notice, published on the news website of Jiangsu province's Communist Party, said the government would shut down any chemical firms found not complying with regulations on dangerous chemicals.
Public anger over safety standards has grown in China following industrial accidents ranging from mining disasters to factory fires that have marred three decades of swift economic growth.
In 2015, 165 people were killed in a series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin.
The explosions at Tianjin, one of the world's busiest ports and not far from the capital, Beijing, were big enough to be seen by satellites and register on earthquake sensors.
Despite repeated pledges by the government to tighten safety, chemical plants in particular have been plagued by disasters.
In November, a series of blasts during the delivery of a flammable gas at a chemical manufacturer killed 23 people.
Big Lizzie, as she is known, will replace a US carrier on the tour and plans to take around 24 F-35B fighter jets plus helicopters on the deployment. Half of these will be provided by the US Marine corps, signalling an ever closer military partnership between the US and UK. Britainâ€™s biggest warship was originally set to sail through the South China Sea as part of a show of strength to China, but this has not been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.
South China Sea: Trump 'to put rocket systems on Xi's doorstep'
South China Sea threat: Philippines to push for code of conduct
Due to the small size of the Royal Navy, it is unlikely Queen Elizabeth or sister ship Prince of Wales will ever deploy without being part of a multinational naval coalition.
However, Minister of Defence, Ben Wallace, has said that the intention going forward is to create a carrier strike group that is a â€śwholly UK sovereign deployable groupâ€ť, according to the UK Defence Journal.
The US is seeking to increase its military presence in the South China Sea in a bid to counteract Chinese attempts at hegemony and to assert the right to freedom of navigation in the sea.
The Queen Elizabethâ€™s participation in the forthcoming naval mission will help reinforce the notion that the UK supports US foreign policy.
The South China sea is a major shipping route for global commerce, and is visited by one-third of the worldâ€™s shipping traffic.
It is also rich in fish and potential energy resources, creating an ever more vicious competition for its resources among neighbouring regional nations
Experts believe that there are up to 11 billion barrels worth of oil under the South China Sea along with 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Resource hungry Beijing has aggressively sought to assert its sovereignty over these hydrocarbon deposits.
As part of that attempt, the Peopleâ€™s Republic says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to it, a claim rejected by an international court of arbitration in 2016.
This has led to escalating tensions in the region, which are threatening to boil over into armed conflict.
In the latest sign of rising tensions, Vietnam has issued another devastating attack on Beijing.
Among the myriad, earth-shattering geopolitical effects of coronavirus, one is already graphically evident. China has re-positioned itself. For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978, Beijing openly regards the US as a threat, as stated a month ago by Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference during the peak of the fight against coronavirus.
Beijing is carefully, incrementally shaping the narrative that, from the beginning of the coronovirus attack, the leadership knew it was under a hybrid war attack. Xi’s terminology is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched.
Moreover, he described the virus as a demon or devil. Xi is a Confucianist. Unlike some other ancient Chinese thinkers, Confucius was loath to discuss supernatural forces and judgment in the afterlife. However, in a Chinese cultural context, devil means “white devils” or “foreign devils”: guailo in Mandarin, gweilo in Cantonese. This was Xi delivering a powerful statement in code.
When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, voiced in an incandescent tweet the possibility that “it might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top official – Beijing was sending up a trial balloon signaliing that the gloves were finally off. Zhao Lijian made a direct connection with the Military Games in Wuhan in October 2019, which included a delegation of 300 US military.
He directly quoted US CDC director Robert Redfield who, when asked last week whether some deaths by coronavirus had been discovered posthumously in the US, replied that “some cases have actually been diagnosed this way in the US today.”
Zhao’s explosive conclusion is that Covid-19 was already in effect in the US before being identified in Wuhan – due to the by now fully documented inability of US to test and verify differences compared with the flu.
Adding all that to the fact that coronavirus genome variations in Iran and Italy were sequenced and it was revealed they do not belong to the variety that infected Wuhan, Chinese media are now openly asking questions and drawing a connection with the shutting down in August last year of the “unsafe” military bioweapon lab at Fort Detrick, the Military Games, and the Wuhan epidemic. Some of these questions had been asked – with no response – inside the US itself.
Extra questions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on October 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a worldwide pandemic caused by a deadly virus – which happened to be coronavirus. This magnificent coincidence happened one month before the outbreak in Wuhan.
Event 201 was sponsored by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hopkins Foundation and the UN. The World Military Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same day.
Irrespective of its origin, which is still not conclusively established, as much as Trump tweets about the “Chinese virus,” Covid-19 already poses immensely serious questions about biopolitics (where’s Foucault when we need him?) and bio-terror.
The working hypothesis of coronavirus as a very powerful but not Armageddon-provoking bio-weapon unveils it as a perfect vehicle for widespread social control – on a global scale.
Cuba rises as a biotech power
Just as a fully masked Xi visiting the Wuhan frontline last week was a graphic demonstration to the whole planet that China, with immense sacrifice, is winning the “people‘s war” against Covid-19, Russia, in a Sun Tzu move on Riyadh whose end result was a much cheaper barrel of oil, helped for all practical purposes to kick-start the inevitable recovery of the Chinese economy. This is how a strategic partnership works.
The chessboard is changing at breakneck speed. Once Beijing identified coronavirus as a bio-weapon attack the “people’s war” was launched with the full force of the state. Methodically. On a “whatever it takes” basis. Now we are entering a new stage, which will be used by Beijing to substantially recalibrate the interaction with the West, and under very different frameworks when it comes to the US and the EU.
Soft power is paramount. Beijing sent an Air China flight to Italy carrying 2,300 big boxes full of masks bearing the script, “We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flowers from the same garden.” China also sent a hefty humanitarian package to Iran, significantly aboard eight flights from Mahan Air – an airline under illegal, unilateral Trump administration sanctions.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic could not have been more explicit:
“The only country that can help us is China. By now, you all understood that European solidarity does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper.”
Under harsh sanctions and demonized since forever, Cuba is still able to perform breakthroughs – even on biotechnology. The anti-viral Heberon – or Interferon Alpha 2b – a therapeutic, not a vaccine, has been used with great success in the treatment of coronavirus. A joint venture in China is producing an inhalable version, and at least 15 nations are already interested in importing the therapeutic.
Now compare all of the above with the Trump administration offering $1 billion to poach German scientists working at biotech firm Curevac, based in Thuringia, on an experimental vaccine against Covid-19, to have it as a vaccine “only for the United States.”
Social engineering psy-op?
Sandro Mezzadra, co-author with Brett Neilson of the seminal The Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism, is already trying to conceptualize where we stand now in terms of fighting Covid-19.
We are facing a choice between a Malthusian strand – inspired by social Darwinism – “led by the Johnson-Trump-Bolsonaro axis” and, on the other side, a strand pointing to the “requalification of public health as a fundamental tool,” exemplified by China, South Korea and Italy. There are key lessons to be learned from South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore.
The stark option, Mezzadra notes, is between a “natural population selection,” with thousands of dead, and “defending society” by employing “variable degrees of authoritarianism and social control.” It’s easy to imagine who stands to benefit from this social re-engineering, a 21st century remix of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.
Amid so much doom and gloom, count on Italy to offer us Tiepolo-style shades of light. Italy chose the Wuhan option, with immensely serious consequences for its already fragile economy. Quarantined Italians remarkably reacted by singing on their balconies: a true act of metaphysical revolt.
Not to mention the poetic justice of the actual St. Corona (“crown” in Latin) being buried in the city of Anzu since the 9th century. St. Corona was a Christian killed under Marcus Aurelius in 165 AD, and has been for centuries one of the patron saints of pandemics.
Not even trillions of dollars raining from the sky by an act of divine Fed mercy were able to cure Covid-19. G-7 “leaders” had to resort to a videoconference to realize how clueless they are – even as China’s fight against coronavirus gave the West a head start of several weeks.
Shanghai-based Dr. Zhang Wenhong, one of China’s top infectious disease experts, whose analyses have been spot on so far, now says China has emerged from the darkest days in the “people’s war” against Covid-19. But he does not think this will be over by summer. Now extrapolate what he’s saying to the Western world.
It’s not even spring yet, and we already know it takes a virus to mercilessly shatter the Goddess of the Market. Last Friday, Goldman Sachs told no fewer than 1,500 corporations that there was no systemic risk. That was false.
New York banking sources told me the truth: systemic risk became way more severe in 2020 than in 1979, 1987 or 2008 because of the hugely heightened danger that the $1.5 quadrillion derivative market would collapse.
As the sources put it, history had never before seen anything like the Fed’s intervention via its little understood elimination of commercial bank reserve requirements, unleashing a potential unlimited expansion of credit to prevent a derivative implosion stemming from a total commodity and stock market collapse of all stocks around the world.
Those bankers thought it would work, but as we know by now all the sound and fury signified nothing. The ghost of a derivative implosion – in this case not caused by the previous possibility, the shutting down of the Strait of Hormuz – remains.
We are still barely starting to understand the consequences of Covid-19 for the future of neoliberal turbo-capitalism. What’s certain is that the whole global economy has been hit by an insidious, literally invisible circuit breaker. This may be just a “coincidence.” Or this may be, as some are boldly arguing, part of a possible, massive psy-op creating the perfect geopolitlcal and social engineering environment for full-spectrum dominance.
Additionally, along the hard slog down the road, with immense, inbuilt human and economic sacrifice, with or without a reboot of the world-system, a more pressing question remains: will imperial elites still choose to keep waging full-spectrum-dominance hybrid war against China?
From South America, where payment must be made with subtlety, the Bormann organization has made a substantial contribution. It has drawn many of the brightest Jewish businessmen into a participatory role in the development of many of its corporations, and many of these Jews share their prosperity most generously with Israel. If their proposals are sound, they are even provided with a specially dispensed venture capital fund. I spoke with one Jewish businessmen in Hartford, Connecticut. He had arrived there quite unknown several years before our conversation, but with Bormann money as his leverage. Today he is more than a millionaire, a quiet leader in the community with a certain share of his profits earmarked as always for his venture capital benefactors. This has taken place in many other instances across America and demonstrates how Bormann’s people operate in the contemporary commercial world, in contrast to the fanciful nonsense with which Nazis are described in so much “literature.”
BEIJING is taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to continue its plot to militarise the South China Sea - bringing the whole region a step closer to conflict.
By REBECCA NICHOLSON
14:17, Sat, Mar 28, 2020 | UPDATED: 14:24, Sat, Mar 28, 2020
South China Sea: Taro Kono warns of 'aggressive behaviour'
Warships, coastguard vessels, militia boats and oil rigs in the contested waters have doubled as Malaysia, Vietnam and China fight for their claim to the sea. Chinese military aircraft have conducted anti-submarine drills in the contested waters in recent weeks. This was in response to the USS Mc Campbell sail through the contested region. China conducted joint exercises in mid–March despite knowing the risk of aggravating other claimant countries.
How coronavirus could see China lose grip on South China Sea
South China Sea: China's chilling missile tests amid Philippines row
China has also activated its fishermen militia which have outnumbered all countries fishing boats in the SCS, in a bid to outmanoeuvre them.
These fishermen militia have been closely followed by Chinese coastguard ships as a show of power.
In early March 2020, USS Theodore Roosevelt along with an advanced destroyer made the visit to Danang to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations.
China perceived it as a growing closeness between the US and Vietnam as this was the second ever visit by any US carrier strike group to Vietnam.
Earlier this week the USS Barry (DDG 52), the US navy guided-missile, was destroyed during a live fire exercise fired a missile in the SCS showcasing its offensive capabilities.
A day before that the Lockheed EP-3E aircraft from the US Navy conducted surveillance between Taiwan and the Philippines, in the Bashi Channel.
This was in response to the infringement of Taiwan’s air space by Chinese military planes earlier in February.
Coronavirus crisis: Shock image could reveal why COVID-19 is so rife in Italy
Coronavirus crisis: Shock image could reveal why COVID-19 is so rife in Italy
End of the EU? Growing fury at 'repugnant' response as Italy condemns Brussels as 'dead'
End of the EU? Growing fury at 'repugnant' response as Italy condemns Brussels as 'dead'
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an emergency ASEAN session is being ruled out. (Image: Getty)
The US counter moves and live firing exercises has aggravated China to such an extent that it has been firing lasers on US surveillance aircrafts, while conducting air blasts in the East China Sea.
This growing intensity of Chinese naval actions has compelled Japan and Vietnam to further develop their defence and strategic relations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an emergency ASEAN session is being ruled out.
However, there may be a web-conference to address the situation.
Professor Pankaj Jha of Jindal Global University said: “The Chinese moves are to intimidate Vietnam into not issuing a strict statement against China and also abide by the Chinese diktats during the ASEAN summit, which in all likelihood might get delayed.
“However, Vietnam has made plans for a press release against the Chinese aggressive tactics. They may even name China as the aggressor.
“Chinese presence in Union banks, which is northeast of Johnson Reef have angered the Vietnamese, because more than three decades ago China had killed several Vietnamese soldiers to claim the Johnson Reef.
“Five People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) ships have been tracked closer to the waters and have been stationed there for quite some time.” _________________ --
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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