Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Heather Zeiger

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#WhereIsPengShuai: China’s Star Tennis Player Went Missing

Peng re-appeared after two weeks, but her disappearance sparked a global outcry against human rights violations under the Chinese Communist Party

On November 2, two-time tennis doubles champion, singles semifinalist, and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai posted on her Weibo account an essay accusing the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, of rape and coercion. They had an on-and-off relationship that began ten years ago and, reportedly, had a fight several days before her post. (A partial translation of her post can be found here.) In 2014 Peng was the number one tennis doubles champion, having won two Grand Slams, and has toured with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She has also appeared in three Olympics for China. Zhang is a retired vice premier of the highest governing body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee, and unlike other government officials who have…

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Thank You

Search Engines: Closing the Gap for Minority Languages

Thousands of the world’s languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 people. At COSM 2021, Phil Parker outlined a plan for giving them access to information

We’ve all consulted “Dr. Google” for a health ailment or to find a recipe or learn how to fix something perhaps. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But what if you asked Google something — and it didn’t even recognize your language? Phil Parker, speaking at COSM 2021, told the story of a woman in Ethiopia searching for “lump in breast,” using one of the over 80 languages or dialects spoken in the region. Her language was one of thousands spoken by only a comparatively small population. The search engine did not recognize her input and returned no hits. She tried her query in Swahili, but there was nothing she found informative about “breast lumps” in Swahili. She finally tried her search…

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Flag of China and clock

Gingrich at COSM: China Is the Greatest Threat to Global Freedom

Newt Gingrich fears America will lose to China. George Gilder argues that thinking that way is self-defeating and stupid

At COSM 2021, philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich sparred over U.S.–China relations. Gilder and Gingrich, a former U.S. Congressman, exemplify the two predominant views on China today. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author Gingrich says the U.S. should decouple from China, while economist and author Gilder sees collaboration with China as our best — and only — option. Gingrich: Optimism about a more open China is waning In his opening remarks, Gingrich recalled that he was once an optimist that Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping’s opening up strategy would usher in a more democratic China because Communism was incompatible with a free market economy. But, Gingrich, who has been a history…

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Robots dancing in the park. Artificial intelligence industry in China.

COSM 2021: Kai-Fu Lee Tries His Hand at Future Casting

The former president of Google China thinks that China is well equipped to lead the world in AI

At COSM 2021, Kai-Fu Lee — computer scientist, writer, venture capitalist and former head of Google China — provided a future cast of the five ways artificial intelligence will change the world. Lee’s predictions are compelling because he takes a tempered view of the capabilities of AI. Lee says some people misunderstand AI. It can’t replicate the human brain because it works differently from the brain. AI is good at using large amounts of data for numerical optimization and individualization, but very poor at extraction analysis, common sense, insight, and creativity. Lee told the gathering: … of course [AI] has no self-awareness, consciousness, or emotions or love. So, it is actually quite a good complement for human beings because we’re…

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一个人漫步在故宫中,你能感觉到自己内心的宁静,倾听历史的声音。历史中的记忆,我们无法完全的复刻,但是建筑带给我们的震撼,却历久弥新。

China Brief: Xi Jinping Is a Techno-Utopian

Is his optimism in fix-all technological solutions actually a weakness?

I attended a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Xi Jinping’s New Policy Framework. Jude Blanchette and Andrew Polk of CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies laid out their take on Xi Jinping’s governance model, the goal of which is to make China into a “great socialist nation” by 2035. This is a change from the Deng Xiaoping goal of making China into a “moderately prosperous society” and includes his common prosperity initiative. For those interested in some of the ins-and-outs of macro-economic policy, you can read the CSIS report, “Chinese State Capitalism: Diagnosis and Prognosis” here. Two key takeaways from the webinar are 1) Xi Jinping’s model is not a rehash of Mao or Lenin, although both…

Planet Earth from Space People's Republic of China highlighted, elements of this image courtesy of NASA
Planet Earth from Space, People's Republic of China warm glow highlighted state borders and counties animation, city lights, 3d illustration

LinkedIn Says Goodbye to China

If the blasé business world of LinkedIn cannot pass the Cyberspace Administration of China’s rules, then what platform can?

LinkedIn announced that it will no longer host social media and content sharing in China. Instead, it’s China-only app will be a job-board site. This comes after LinkedIn received criticism for blocking certain researcher profiles in China as well as human rights advocates and journalists who write on China. LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was one of the only U.S.-based social media outlets still operating within China. Twitter, Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp), and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, Inc.) are banned. Google (also owned by Alphabet, Inc.) left in 2010. Signal and Clubhouse were banned in 2021. Other apps, such as TikTok (owned by ByteDance, Inc.) have their own Chinese version that complies with censors and data regulators.…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…