Shifting Sands for Tech Governance in China

2020 was a year of extreme highs and lows for the fortunes of technology platforms in China. From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic they were central to sustaining economic activity during lockdown and maintaining a ‘new normal’ as the country re-opened. Their dominance over life in China seemed emphatic. By the end of the[…]

Who Believed in COVID-19 Conspiracies in China?

As COVID-19 quickly spread throughout the world since January 2020, the uncertainty concerning the origins and features of the virus provided a fertile ground for misinformation and conspiracy theories to thrive. Different from those popular COVID-19 conspiracy narratives in the West, on Chinese social media the conspiracies that gained traction were ones that faulted the[…]

Not At Home: Resisting ‘home’ as a natural space of refuge

  As the news of the pandemic confirmed the reality of the health crises pandemic, we all turned square, sitting in rectangles that frame our faces, as we work from home. ‘Shelter in Place’[1] became the rallying call, offering the home as a retreat, a refuge, a fortress of solitude where we defy the Covid-19[…]

Australia: A poor model for QR data ‘attendance tracking’

In Australia, two main technologies have been used for COVID-19 contact tracing: a Bluetooth-based proximity tracking app, and QR Codes to assist tracking of those attending venues or events. They take radically different approaches to the protection of privacy, including that the first is voluntary, the second is (in effect) compulsory. Effective contact tracing is[…]

Pandemic strengthens China’s platforms as infrastructure providers

After strict lockdown measures went into place in China, nearly all commercial activity shifted online. E-commerce expanded its reach in the form of rural live-streaming (村播): farmers-turned-online-hosts selling fresh produce and the nostalgia of the countryside to tens of millions of urban consumers glued to their smartphones at home. The exchange is simple. Using apps[…]

The bio-surveillance state: an emerging new normal in Asia

When economic activity gradually resumed in China in mid-February, Chinese residents returned to a “new normal” under a strict surveillance infrastructure. They have their temperatures taken and personal information logged as they enter office buildings, residential communities and large commercial venues. And their freedom of movement depends on an app called Health Code (健康码), which[…]

All Carrots and No Sticks: A Case Study on Social Credit Scores in Xiamen and Fuzhou

In 2018 Xiamen and Fuzhou, two cities in Fujian province, a region on the coast in the southeast most famous for its historic trader links and global diaspora population, became one of just a handful of cities in China with their own city-level personal credit scores (个人信用评分). These are algorithmically created scores, using data gathered[…]

Hong Kong’s Anti-ELAB Demonstrations: Tools, Platforms, and Tactics

It has been almost three months since between 240,000 to a million Hong Kongers marched in protest against an extradition bill many feared would lead to an unacceptable weakening of Hong Kong’s legal independence from Beijing as per the “one country-two systems” principle enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law. While this bill was proclaimed “dead”[…]

China’s Techno-Utilitarian Experiments with Artificial Intelligence

Any article talking about China’s journey with Artificial Intelligence (AI) has to begin with the board game Go. More specifically, the face-off between Lee Sedol, winner of 18 world titles and widely considered to be the greatest player of the past decade, and Google’s DeepMind-AI-powered Alpha Go. In a now landmark match, Alpha Go didn’t[…]

A tech upgrade for India-China relations

Chinese technology companies are now world leaders in areas such as artificial intelligence, e-commerce and fintech. After investing heavily in South East Asia, they are rapidly establishing themselves in India, with venture capital firms following suit. This can have a transformative effect on the Indian technology scenario over time and catalyse an Operating System (OS)[…]