Tag Archives: huawei

Software to Identify Uighurs

Chinese telecommunications giant “Huawei” has tested surveillance and facial-recognition software that would alert Chinese authorities when it “identifies” Uighur Muslims.

The company worked with Chinese tech startup Megvii in 2018 to test surveillance equipment capable of identifying Chinese citizens from a crowd by their “sex, age, and ethnicity.” 

According to a document signed by Huawei officials and obtained by the Washington Post. When the software identifies Uighur Muslims, according to the document, it could send alerts or flag the citizens for investigation by Chinese authorities.

The document was scrubbed from Huawei’s website soon after the Post asked for comment.

Chinese labor camp in Xinjiang region.

The surveillance technology is just one element of a larger crackdown on the religious and political freedoms of Uighurs in China. Millions of Uighurs are held in “work camps” in western China, where they are often subjected to population control, brutal work conditions, and forced renunciation of their faith.

Senate Republicans have called on Washington to designate China’s treatment of Uighurs as a genocide.

Chinese surveillance systems remain a major concern for policymakers, especially those made by Huawei. China is also developing a new social credit system using surveillance technology that would limit political and economic opportunity for certain citizens.

While the State Department has taken a hard line against Chinese technology through efforts such as the Clean Network and has lobbied Europe to limit Huawei’s 5G plans there, American investors have had less success in divorcing themselves from Chinese capital.

Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in the Xinjiang region

By some estimates over $1 trillion in U.S. funds are currently invested in China, including in Chinese tech firms that cooperate with the Chinese government in suppressing human freedoms.

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Made in China 2025

Technology is cloaked in many guises. But not, it appears, in the form of the “Made in China 2025” master plan.

A close inspection of Premier Li Keqiang’s annual Government Work Report showed there was no mention of the controversial program in the 35-page document.

Remarkable, when you consider that this is one of President Xi Jinping’s seminal policies, which is geared to turning the world’s second-largest economy into a “technological superpower.”

Instead, the words “smart plus” were used to describe China’s high-tech development in the 21st Century. And only briefly.

“One of the most significant row backs has been the government’s softening of its ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative,” Audrey Jiajia Li wrote on openDemocracy, a nonprofit political website based in the United Kingdom.

“The policy provoked alarm in the West, particularly in Washington, and was subsequently downplayed by China’s state-run media. The state news agency Xinhua referred to the policy more than 140 times in the first half of 2018, but abruptly stopped doing so after June 5. A propaganda directive ordering the media to stop using the term was leaked later that month.”

Breathtaking in scale, the policy was rolled out in 2015, four years after Germany’s Industry 4.0 initiative, which was launched at the influential Hanover Fair.

The blueprint encompasses an array of industries, from chips, computers and the cloud to smart cars and smart cookers. In fact, hardly a single sector in China’s economy will escape the effects of this multi-billion-dollar project.

Renewables, railways and robotics are other vital areas earmarked, along with the Internet of Things, and interconnected smart technology linked through artificial intelligence, or AI, for the bio pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors.

But this is just part of the “Made in China 2025” brief, which has called for at least 70% of related high-tech materials and products, such as semiconductors, to be made domestically by 2030.

Indeed, the sheer depth of the scheme has triggered a technological arms race, with US President Donald Trump insisting that China’s state subsidies for these industries should be curtailed amid rising trade tensions.

During the three rounds of talks between Beijing and Washington in the past six weeks, this became a major sticking point. The European Union has also voiced concerns about illegal central government support which could threaten the bloc’s tech industries such as telecoms and aerospace.

“Nobody in the EU wants to isolate China, but we need to equip ourselves better against a country that in some areas is becoming a strategic rival,” a senior EU diplomat said last week.

While China’s relationship with two of its biggest trading partners has deteriorated during the past 12 months, this will not derail its high-tech ambitions.

A separate report released earlier this week revealed that Beijing will increase science and technology spending by 13% to 354.31 billion yuan (US$52.88 billion) this year, despite the economy showing signs of stress.

Putting that into perspective, Huang Shouhong, the director of the research office of the influential State Council and a National People’s Congress delegate, said:

“There is limited space in the annual government work report and there’s nothing unusual about certain policies being mentioned last year but not this year. Yet facilitating the high-quality growth of China’s manufacturing sector is a must to upgrade and transform the Chinese economy.”

Still, technology is now the new “battlefield” in the rivalry between the world’s two largest economies with Huawei, the “Made in China 2025” poster child, targeted by US crossfire.

The telecom giant has become associated with the perceived “security dangers” of Beijing’s state-backed model when it comes to 5G. Australia, New Zealand, UK and the US have already announced plans to ban it from their super-fast networks.

In December, the US Justice Department announced sweeping charges against the group, including bank fraud, obstruction of justice and technology theft.

Key accusations revolve around violations of US sanctions on Iran, an allegation which has been leveled against Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei.

She was arrested in Vancouver and faces extradition to the US. Meng and Huawei have categorically denied the charges. But the saga continues within a broader tech conflict with no ceasefire in sight.

“The current trade war between the United States and China is not about trade,” Yukon Huang, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and the author of “Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong”, said.

“This war is about protecting the technological edge that has made the United States the world’s dominant economic power,” the former World Bank director for China added.

Needless to say, those comments also failed to make it into Li’s 35-page report.

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Zombie iGeneration

Smartphone culture has taken on a whole new meaning in China. Photo: AFP / Johannes Eisele

In the 1960s cult classic “Night of the Living Dead” a zombie army staggers around in the darkness like mummified corpses.

Fast forward more than 50 years, and a similar sight can be seen in broad daylight every day of the week as the “iGeneration” stalk the planet.

From the metro system in Beijing to the Bakerloo Line in London, you will see gangs of “social media addicts” glued to their smart phones. Constantly searching for their next fix, these “trivia junkies” appear oblivious to the world around them.

But in China, the joy of having a “connected high” can quickly be replaced by “cold turkey” guilt.

“A total of 84.9% of people in a survey said their obsession with smart phones had made them spend less time communicating with their families and 78.9% said they felt guilty for doing so,” a poll released by the influential state-run China Youth Daily confirmed.

“This feeling appeared to be even stronger among people in their 30s – the ‘1980s-generation’ – as 91.4% of them complained about the ‘phubbing impact,’ the habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone,” the report revealed last year.

The rise of “smartphone culture” in the world’s second-largest economy has been “phenomenal” in the past decade with China now the “largest market” on the planet.

Data from “Statista” underlined the scale and scope of the “online craze.” More than 25% of worldwide smartphone sales are generated in the country.

“Around 713 million people in China used a smartphone in 2018,” the data website stated and the figure is still rising.

Naturally, this “appetite” for social media and internet shopping has boosted the fortunes of home-grown smartphone manufacturers, such as the big four of “Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Vivo.”

“The China mainland smartphone market improved sequentially in the third quarter of 2019 as shipments reached 97.8 million from 97.6 million in the second quarter,” Canalys, an international research company, reported.

“Huawei extended its market lead by shipping 41.5 million smart phones to reach a record market share of 42%, an annual growth of 66%,” it added.

But as sales continue to climb in China, “the side effects” have triggered a heated debate in the media with the “People’s Daily” wading into the row. The official mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party acted as an “aging agony aunt” when it warned readers of the dangers of living, and even sleeping, with their smart phones.

“Social media, taking pictures, payment, navigation … The continuous flow of information is like bait being spread around a fish that makes the fish too busy to focus on one thing,” it pointed out, referring to an All-China Women’s Federation survey released in 2019.

“People said the more they use their mobile phones, the lonelier they felt. It is up to all of us whether we alienate our friends and family members or transfer our passion from phones to the people around us?” the People’s Daily added.

Still, kicking that “zombie” habit might be easier said than done, fueling nights of “living hell” for the social media in-crowd.

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Wireless Gadgets

In the third quarter of this year, 84.5 million wearable device units had been shipped around the world, posting a 94.6% year-on-year growth and marking a record-high shipment volume in a single quarter. Credit: apple.

Smart wearable’s are becoming fashionable in China as tech-savvy consumers scramble to embrace the gadgets to make life more fun and convenient.

From fancy voice-interaction wireless earbuds to watches that can access smartphone apps, make calls and monitor heart rates, technological advances have enriched these devices’ functions and increased their appeal, China.org.cn reported.

In the third quarter of this year, 84.5 million wearable device units had been shipped around the world, posting a 94.6% year-on-year growth and marking a record-high shipment volume in a single quarter, said market research company International Data Corp.

The growth was chiefly driven by strong demand for hearables including Apple Inc’s “AirPods” and Huawei’s “wireless earbuds.” IDC said hearables alone accounted for almost half the wearable’s market from June to September, with 40.7 million ear-wear devices shipped from factories.

Zhang Wentao, a bank employee in Beijing, recently spent about 2,000 yuan (US$284) on a pair of “AirPods Pro”, the latest earbuds by Apple. “The device delivers fantastic sound quality, supports double-tap to pause music and allows taking phone calls and talking to Apple’s voice-activated digital assistant Siri,” Zhang said.

“It was not supposed to be a necessity. But once I began wearing the wireless earphones, I don’t want to take them off,” he added.

Users like Zhang are helping push wearable sales in the country. Xiang Ligang, CEO of telecom industry website Cctime” said wireless earbuds have become the new sought-after product in China.

Fitbit teamed up with Dexcom to create a sensor that sits just under the skin and measures a person’s glucose levels every few minutes. Credit: Engadget.

“Local consumers have a greater appetite for devices that make life convenient and help them better enjoy their leisure time,” Xiang said.

Similar instances include the growing popularity of smart watches and fitness trackers in the country. Mounting consumer enthusiasm has already helped Chinese brands “Xiaomi” and “Huawei” make their way into the top four wearable makers worldwide.

Huawei, in particular, saw a 188% year-on-year surge in shipments to Chinese customers over the last quarter. The Shenzhen-based company said it has already sold more than 10 million smart watches this year.

Xiang said tech giants jumped the gun several years ago before the hardware was able to catch up to the initial design of smart wearable’s. But as technology advances, most of the problems are quietly going away, and new market drivers are emerging.

Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for International Data Corp.’s mobile device trackers, said the rise of smart, “voice-activated virtual assistants” in home alliances and phones has increased demand for wearable’s that can connect with these assistants.

“The wearable’s market is well on its way to becoming a mass-market device category rather than one that primarily caters to health and fitness,” Ubrani added.

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