Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Heather Zeiger

flags of Soviet Union and China

Xi Jinping’s Ruthless March Toward “Common Prosperity”

Part II: The roots of Xi Jinping's "common prosperity" vision and why he's making changes to China's technology sector now

In my previous article we looked at the sweeping crackdown of China’s technology sector, beginning with Jack Ma and Ant Financial, and how this is part of Xi Jinping’s goal of “common prosperity.” While corruption and debt excesses needed to be reined in and people wanted better data privacy protections, Xi’s common prosperity initiative is also about concentrating power, redistributing wealth, and controlling the unpredictable market. In this article we’ll look at the roots of common prosperity and why analysts believe Xi is making these changes now. Appealing to the Working Class In his speech celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in China, Xi said that the Party will make “notable and substantive progress toward achieving well-rounded human…

LIJIANG,CHINA-FEB 18:Mao statue,with the slogan on wall: " Long live the great Communist Party of China" in Lijiang on Feb 18 2012. Mao, a statesman who laying the foundation of new china

Will China’s Huge Tech Sector Crackdown Stifle Innovation?

Part I: How will the Common Prosperity program really play out in the private sector?

Didi Chuxing (Didi Global, Inc.), the largest ride-hailing company in the world, was reprimanded when it opened on the New York Stock Exchange after regulators warned it needed to shore up its data security issues. Meituan, China’s massive shopping and coupon app, was recently fined $533 million for “anticompetitive behavior.” Alibaba, owned by tech billionaire Jack Ma, had to pay a $2.8 billion fine for the same reasons. Antitrust regulators dinged Tencent, Baidu (China’s Google alternative), ByteDance (parent company for TikTok), and ecommerce company JD.com Inc.  The billion-dollar online private tutoring industry sank after the Chinese government declared that after-school tutoring is now non-profit only. Then the online gaming industry was hit when the Chinese government declared children are only allowed to play for a few…

holograms of masks
Holograms of masks, Hackers hiding behind digital anonymous masks, fake accounts. Concept for internet crime, fraud, cyber attack, spam, electronic theft. 3D illustration, 3D render

China Manipulates Social Media to Spark Protests in the U.S.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye and Google Threat Analysis have fingered a campaign against the Hong Kong democracy movement, as well as claims that COVID started in the U.S.

Both a September report by cybersecurity firm FireEye and a threat assessment post by Google highlight the scope of China’s current global propaganda campaign. According to FireEye’s Threat Research Blog, thousands of “inauthentic accounts” — across dozens of social media platforms and websites around the world — amplify the Chinese government’s messaging. While several non-government organizations, cybersecurity firms, and media outlets have reported on the way China’s Twitter network manipulates social medial platforms, FireEye and Alphabet say the breadth and scope of the propaganda campaign is much greater than previously thought: Most reporting has highlighted English and Chinese-language activity occurring on the social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, we have now observed this pro-PRC activity taking place on…

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Terracotta warriors, China

China’s Data Laws Restrict Businesses and Favor the State

The Data Security Law and the Personal Information Protection Law are part of the Chinese government’s plan to steer the private sector toward State goals

In previous articles, I looked at how the Chinese government is reigning in China’s tech sector first of Jack Ma and Ant Group’s initial public offering on the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges and then Didi Global, Inc. The Chinese government has since passed two data laws and released an update that clarifies the 2017 Cybersecurity Law. The result is better protections of citizens’ data from being used, exploited, or sold by private companies, and encroaching government presumption of the private sector in which the State has virtually unrestricted access to and jurisdiction over private companies’ data.  Clarification of the 2017 Cybersecurity Law The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) gained oversight powers over other state agencies in 2014 under Xi Jinping. Jane…

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China.

China Brief: Update on COVID-19 Origins

More evidence points to China's attempted suppression of human error as the origin of COVID-19

In January a team from the World Health Organization traveled to Wuhan, Hubei in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) outbreak. Team lead Dr. Peter Ben Embarek said in the press conference that a lab accident was “extremely unlikely” as the cause of the Covid-19 outbreak. He stuck to the Party line that the virus likely jumped from animals to humans or that it could have been imported from frozen food deliveries. Embarek has since changed his position. In a documentary aired on Danish television on August 12, Embarek said that the pandemic was likely due to a lab accident and he admitted that the team was pressured by Chinese authorities to not mention the lab leak…

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China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

What’s Behind China’s Crackdown on Big Tech?

Both China and the U.S. are treating big tech with a heavy hand, but under different motivations

In a previous article I looked at Chinese regulators’ crackdown on Didi Global, China’s ride-hailing service. Didi is one of several Chinese tech giants that have been tamed in the past nine months. Prior to Didi, Ant Group, Tencent, Meituan, and Pinduoduo were all quelled by regulators. After Didi, regulators targeted Full Truck Alliance and Kanzhun. They recently shut down online for-profit tutoring and have banned mining cryptocurrencies in China.  Thus far, the Chinese government’s actions have resulted in almost $1 trillion net losses for the Chinese tech sector.  The two big questions are, Why now? and, relatedly, Who’s next? SupChina has a well-organized explainer on China’s Big Tech Crackdown here. Another helpful resource is this video from DW, “How China is tightening control of its tech companies”: According to SupChina, China’s…

China stock market exchange / Shanghai stock market analysis forex indicator of changes graph

China’s Crackdown on Big Tech: Didi Global Inc.

In an authoritarian government, data is power

The Chinese Communist Party is on a campaign to reign in the private sector and some analysts say it is just the beginning. According to Wall Street Journal: Investors, analysts and company executives believe the government is just getting started in its push to realign the relationship between private business and the state, with a goal of ensuring companies do more to serve the Communist Party’s economic, social and national-security concerns. Jing Yang, Keith Zhai, and Quentin Webb, “China’s Corporate Crackdown Is Just Getting Started. Signs Point to More Tumult Ahead” at Wall Street Journal. Last November, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) reined in Ant Group, Ltd. which was poised to open on the Shanghai and Hong Kong index with…

Symbol of law and justice with China Flag on laptop. Studio shot.

Chinese Communist Party Called Out For Cyber Attacks

The DOJ has indicted members of state-backed hacker group APT40 for cyber crimes dating back to 2009

On the same day that several countries formally accused the Chinese government of malicious cyber behavior, the U.S. Department of Justice made public its indictment of four Chinese hackers who are part of the hacker group, APT40.* Deng Xiaoyang, Chen Qingmin, and Zhu Yunmin are associated with the Hainan providential arm of China’s Ministry of State Security, and Wu Shurong is a private contractor in Hainan. They are charged with Conspiracy to Damage Protected Computers, Conspiracy to Commit Economic Espionage, and Criminal Forfeiture. The unsealed grand jury indictment outlines cybercrimes dating back to July 2009 and continuing through September 2018.  From the indictment: The object of the conspiracy was to install malware and hacking tools on protected computers and to leverage such…

Chinese hacker. Laptop with binary computer code and china flag on the screen. Internet and network security.

U.S. and Allies Formally Accuse China of Exchange Server Hack

This isn’t the first time the Chinese-backed hacker group has infiltrated organizations

On Monday, July 19, three cybersecurity announcements were made: In response to the massive Microsoft Exchange Server hack, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Japan, the E.U., and NATO formally accused the Chinese government of engaging in harmful cyberactivity. The U.S. Department of Justice published its indictment of four Chinese hackers associated with the Chinese government, known as APT40. The FBI, CSIS, and the NSA published a cybersecurity advisory cataloging the fifty tactics, techniques, and procedures used by Chinese state-sponsored hackers. Then, on Tuesday, the CSIA and the FBI published a report on state-sponsored international hacking groups that included accusations that the Chinese state-backed hackers infiltrated thirteen oil and natural gas pipeline operators between 2011 and 2013. In…

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Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory behind glass

China Is Building the World’s Largest Global DNA Database

The government violates the country’s own privacy laws in the name of security and stability

A January 2021 study by a U.K. cybersecurity and privacy watchdog, Comparitech, found that China was the world’s worst offender for “widespread and invasive biometric data collection” out of ninety-six countries studied. The Chinese government aspires to build the world’s largest police-run DNA database. Its Made in China 2025 plan places a priority on building its biotechnology industry, which involves collecting a large number of DNA samples. The way Chinese authorities obtain DNA is often intrusive and without consent. In a previous article, we looked at how U.S. companies’ DNA sequencing and identification technologies end up in Xinjiang despite U.S. sanctions. In this article, we will look at how China is using DNA collection to further its national goals. China’s…

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DNA sequence with colored letters on black background containing mutation

U.S.-Made DNA ID Equipment Is Being Sold to Xinjiang’s Police

Engineering professor Yves Moreau’s research shows that a more serious approach to existing sanctions against such uses is needed

The U.S. leads the world in DNA sequencing technologies. Unfortunately, two U.S. companies’ products are being used in China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region despite the fact that the U. S. has placed sanctions on such uses. The sanctions were put in place because Chinese authorities surveil and detain Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities without legal precedent and engage in acts that are in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The New York Times, for example, obtained ten contracts, along with government procurement documents, showing that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s and Promega’s equipment is being sold to Xinjiang police: The government procurement documents and contracts show that several Chinese companies sold Thermo Fisher equipment worth at least $521,165 to…

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Monument Of Chinese Communist Party At Tiananmen Square

Chinese Communist Party: 100 Years of Erasing, Rewriting History

Tiananmen Square: Anyone born after 1980 has no idea that the People’s Liberation Army turned against the demonstrators in front of a gate whose name is “Heavenly Peace.”

“The regime wants us to forget. I hope to use my camera to remember…We are resisting in our memories. We are resisting forgetfulness.” – Kiwi Chow, documentary filmmaker in Hong Kong, referring to the events in Hong Kong in 2019, “In a Scarred Hong Kong, ‘Beautiful Things Are Gone’” Reuters, June 29, 2021 The centenary commemoration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under Mao Zedong in 1921 commemorates a myth. The party was founded on July 23, but this year’s celebrations commenced July 1, which coincides with the date of the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997. According to China Digital Times, July 1 has a nice symmetry to the dates of the founding of the…

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Young man wearing coverall and safety mask working on production line of modern pharmaceutical factory, portrait shot

U.S. Moratorium(ish) on Gain-of-Function Research

Evaluating the effectiveness of the 2014 U.S. moratorium on gain-of-function experiments

In the last two articles, we discussed the vindication of the lab leak theory through the publication of several investigative articles, and the risky nature of gain-of-function research and the evidence that it may be a key component to the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we turn to the U.S. Due to the risky nature of gain-of-function research, what actions has the U.S. government taken to mitigate those risks? In 2014, the U.S. government placed a moratorium on new gain-of-function experiments for influenza, MERS, and SARS. That moratorium defines “gain-of-function” in very broad terms covering any “research that improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease.” The moratorium expired in 2017 and was replaced by an oversight board,…

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Medical science laboratory. Concept of virus and bacteria research

What Is Gain-of-Function Research and Why Is It Risky?

The Wuhan Institute of Virology and the NIH find themselves in a tough spot

Last time, we talked about the vindication of the lab leak theory, as a growing number of investigative articles have pointed to a lab accident as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now,we turn to the role risky gain-of-function research may have played in the affair. To understand why some in the U.S. government and the NIH want to downplay funding of gain-of-function research, we need to understand what exactly it is. All viruses mutate, some faster than others. Influenza is one of the fastest mutating viruses, followed by HIV. SARS-CoV-2 mutates slower than both viruses, which is why many scientists believe vaccine booster shots will likely be every few years, rather than annually, like the flu. Scientists need to…

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Science laboratory research and development concept. microscope with test tubes

Lab Leak Theory Vindicated: What That Means for Fighting COVID-19

What was the U.S. government's role in downplaying the lab leak theory?

Vanity Fair adds to the growing number of investigative articles pointing to a lab accident as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article looks at the U.S. government’s role in downplaying that lab leak theory. Behind closed doors, however, national security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public. Katherine Eban, “The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins” at Vanity Fair At a time when the Mainstream Media has sullied its reputation by parroting experts rather than seeking multiple viewpoints and checking sources, several articles stand out as excellent pieces of long-form writing and…

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Woman wearing gloves with biohazard chemical protective suit and mask. She crossed her arms with unhappy face.

Covid-19 Lab Leak Theory Upgraded from Conspiracy to Plausible

Many scientists were discouraged from openly discussing the possibility of a lab leak, which hindered serious investigation

Could the SARS-CoV-2 virus have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? The public was informed, until quite recently, that the “scientific consensus” was that the virus that causes COVID-19 likely passed from animal to human and was neither designed nor accidentally released from a lab in Wuhan. However, this “consensus” has turned out to be anything but. Several scientists have voiced their concern over the lack of transparency on the part of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), imploring that the “lab leak” hypothesis should not be thrown out. They were largely ignored. Some scientists have even said that they experienced “very intense, very subtle pressures” to avoid advancing the lab leak theory. It’s advancing anyway, as more evidence accumulates.…

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in the dzhokang temple

Why the Chinese Communist Party Feels It Must Destroy Religion

Persecution of religious groups is not based on what they actually teach but on whether their separate existence could pose a threat to the Communist Party

The U.S. Department of State’s just-released 2020 Annual Report on the state of religious freedom around the world devotes 136 pages to China. That’s because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses an extensive network of surveillance cameras coupled with facial recognition software — as well as cell phone tracking, internet and message monitoring, and biometric profiling — to persecute adherents of non-state-sanctioned organizations. Advances in collecting and storage of massive amounts of data to be sifted by algorithms have made this possible. In 2020, according to the report, the CCP used the COVID-19 pandemic to suppress religion through monitoring house church locations, shutting down online services, and creating bureaucratic barriers to opening buildings for worship. Through this “stability maintenance program,”…

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communicator technology on wood table top view

Apple’s Supply Chain Includes Forced Labor in China

Big companies like Apple claim they try to avoid forced labor but maybe not hard enough

The Information, an online periodical covering the tech industry, found that Apple’s supply chain includes companies that use the forced labor of members of minority groups in China, particularly Uyghurs — Chinese citizens who are ethnically Turkish and mostly Muslim: The Information and human rights groups have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China. At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found. The revelation stands in contrast to Apple’s assertions over the past year that it hasn’t found evidence of…

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conceptual image Chinese stock exchange with digital currency, devaluation of bitcoin or growth of Chinese e-rmb

Will China’s Digital Yuan Displace the US Dollar in Global Trade?

The U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency because it was stable and easily transferable. It also enabled the U.S. to penalize sponsors of terrorism and genocide

China has just launched its Digital Currency Electronic Payment System, called variously the electronic yuan or electronic renminbi (abbreviated e-CNY or e-RMB). It will likely thwart Alipay and WeChat Pay’s dominance in China’s financial tech market and allow the government to track almost all financial transactions in real time. There are, of course, international implications to China being the first country to roll out a digital currency backed by the central bank. Can the Digital Yuan Compete with the Dollar for Global Dominance? Some analysts now see China’s move to a digital currency based on blockchain technology as intended to displace the dollar. Right now, eighty-eight percent of global trade interactions are in U.S. dollars, followed by the euro, and…

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New Yuan digital currency of china on red economy graph chart

China Sharply Reins in Big Tech Amid All-Digital Currency Rollout

Ant Group must turn over its vast customer database to the government in exchange for the easing of strict regulations

Earlier, we looked at what China’s new digital yuan, also called Digital Currency Electronics Payment or e-CNY, will mean for Chinese citizens. The rollout may relate to billionaire e-commerce founder Jack Ma’s critiques of China’s regulators and subsequent (temporary) disappearance. Also to the subsequent denial of his Ant Group’s billion-dollar initial public offering on the Shanghai index. Since then, the Chinese government has cracked down on several Big Tech companies while promoting the digital yuan. How China is rapidly reining in its Big Tech industries Chinese media have been promoting the second annual Double Five (i.e., May 5) Shopping Festival in Shanghai. This month-long state-organized shopping festival is part of “National Consumption Promotion Month.” The first Consumption Month festival, held…