Top 10 Ways China Is Turning Into An Episode Of Black Mirror
The Communist Party of China (CCP) is becoming increasingly paranoid of its own citizens. As China has advanced towards a more prosperous future, workers have come to expect better salaries and individual ownership. But the CCP remains hostile to any philosophy that undermines its Marxist roots. All threats, from the separatist musings of Uyghur Muslims to the external pressures of Western capitalism, are immediately expunged from the public consciousness.
President Xi Jinping, now the “president for life,” is harnessing the country’s technological superiority to keep his people in line. The repressive regime has introduced a social credit score that punishes dissident behavior. Each score is calculated using a wealth of “big data,” including a person’s internet search history, criminal records, and shopping habits. A number of socially undesirable behaviors can cause a score to plummet. These include insincere apologies in court, traffic violations, posting fake news online, protesting against the CCP, or failing to visit elderly relatives. Penalties for falling afoul of these expectations include throttled internet connections, travel bans, loan rejections, and restricted access to public transport.
China is now a tech-driven police state, crushing all forms of religion, freedom of expression, and political opposition. This level of control is partially achieved through China’s “Skynet Project” – a sprawling network of surveillance cameras that track the movements of each and every citizen. The system is overseen by major tech companies, most of which are forced to report back to their CCP puppet masters. Overall life in communist China is now the stuff of dystopia, even surpassing the inhumanity of Charlie Brooker’s sci-fi show Black Mirror.
10 Facial Recognition for Toilet Paper
China is currently going through a “Toilet Revolution.” The initiative, spearheaded by President Xi Jinping in 2015, was designed to improve the bathroom facilities across tourist hotspots. Travelers have frequently complained about China’s unhygienic restrooms, which often house squalid pit toilets. In response, the Chinese Communist Party has pumped billions of dollars into building luxury restrooms. Some facilities even offer Wi-Fi, vending machines, televisions, and charging stations for electric scooters and cars.
But some local authorities have gone a step further. In many public bathrooms, Citizens must stand on a designated marker and wait for a facial recognition machine to scan their faces. A camera takes a snapshot of the user’s face and dispenses a 28-inch strip of toilet paper (around 6-7 sheets). Each visitor must wait a further 9 minutes to obtain more toilet paper. Some “smart” bathrooms even include alarms that tell the restroom’s operators when a user has spent too long on the toilet. The alarm is set to go off after 15 minutes, at which point a supervisor is sent to check on the person.
9 Public Humiliation for Jay Walking
Each year, around 260,000 people are killed in road traffic accidents throughout mainland China. Pedestrians and bikers make up a staggering 60 percent of this death toll. Mounting evidence suggests that some drivers are deliberately killing pedestrians, initially knocked over during simple traffic accidents, to avoid paying large medical costs. This phenomenon is known locally as the “hit-to-kill” rule. A victim’s ongoing medical bills, it is said, are far costlier than a one-time payment of compensation to the victim’s family.
To stop these accidents from happening in the first place, the government has put in place a range of technologies to stop its citizens from jaywalking. One such measure involves capturing the faces of jaywalkers and posting them on electronic billboards and online websites. The move is designed to shame Chinese citizens into following the rules.
The government, with the aid of its face recognition database, identifies the offender and slaps them with a small fine. The money is automatically pulled using the person’s social networking accounts, usually Weibo or WeChat. Repeat offenders are blacklisted on China’s social credit system, meaning they no longer have access to certain public services.
In 2018, city officials in Ningbo were left red-faced after accusing an advertisement of jaywalking. The anti-jaywalking tech captured a female face on the side of a moving bus. It then mistook the ad for a jaywalker and uploaded it to the city’s electronic wall of shame. It turned out the face belonged to Dong Mingzhu, a respected business woman who appeared in an advertisement for her own air conditioning company.
8 Fitting Workforces with Brain-Reading Headsets
In 2018, it was revealed that many major companies were using sophisticated head gear to monitor the brainwave activities of workers. From factory floors to state-operated trains, many sectors have deployed brain-monitoring devices to improve worker efficiency. A government-owned power company in Hangzhou credits the tech with improving its workflow and profit margins. Changhai Hospital uses the headbands, along with pressure sensors and cameras, to preempt violent outbursts from patients. And state schools are starting to use the tool to analyze the concentration levels of pupils.
The headset uses electrodes to detect a variety of problematic brainwave signals. Overly emotional workers, it seems, do not make for productive workers. Employers may then reassign workers who are struggling with anxiety or depression. “When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post,” explained neuroscience professor Jin Jia. “Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake.”
7 Robo-Dove Spy Drones
Dozens of Chinese agencies use robotic birds to spy on unsuspecting citizens. The surveillance drones – which feature a suite of GPS antennas, sensors, and cameras – are part of a project called “Dove.” Weighing just 200 grams, the drone uses a set of semi-deformable wings to generate both lift and thrust. The engineering team claims its invention has even confused real birds. Flocks are often seen following the robo-dove’s natural movements and flight patterns, helping it to blend in with the crowd.
The authorities believe the near-silent machine represents a perfect tool for conducting covert surveillance operations. The birds have already seen action in five provinces, including the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang. In recent decades, the government has expressed concern over the rise of Turkic separatists in the north. President Jinping has sought to combat this movement using widespread surveillance, DNA tracking, and “re-education camps.”
Clocking in at a speed of 25 miles per hour, the low-flying drone remains undetectable to all but the most sensitive of radar systems. China’s military has evaluated the robo-doves and is looking at further applications. Project leader Song Bifeng says the drones have already taken to the skies for the purposes of “environmental protection, land planning… and border patrol.”
6 Artificial News Anchors
At the World Internet Conference in 2018, Xinhua News Agency announced the world’s first artificial news readers. Developed by search engine behemoth Sogou, the virtual presenters display lifelike hand and facial animations. The English-speaking presenter is modeled on one of Xinhua’s own newsreaders, Zhang Zhao. During his official debut, the self-proclaimed “AI news anchor” discussed how Panama represents a lynchpin in China’s efforts to access Latin American markets. “That’s all for today’s English news program,” he signs off. “As an AI news anchor under development, I know there is a lot to improve.”
Nearly two years on, newer additions to the AI news team have emerged, including the country’s first digital female presenter. The wizards behind the technology have also used machine learning to improve the presenters’ mannerisms, facial animations, and speech patterns. The hosts, lauded for their “tireless” work, have presented thousands of reports on Xinhua’s news website and apps.
Xinhua is an organ of the CCP, producing state-sanctioned newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts. The news agency’s journalists contribute to China’s “internal media,” producing uncensored news reports that are only available to CCP officials. Meanwhile, one of Sogou’s parent companies, the software giant Tencent, continues to aid and abet the regime’s mass surveillance efforts.
5 Faking Exercise to Avoid Salary Deductions
With the widespread use of fitness tracking apps, businesses in China are starting to take a keen interest in the health of their workforces. In 2015, Tencent added a fitness tracker to its popular social media and payment app, WeChat. The tracker monitors the number of steps a user takes and allows people to “like [their] friends’ steps.”
In 2018, a real estate agency in southeast China began using WeChat’s fitness app to monitor its employees. Workers were told they would incur a financial penalty if they failed to reach a target of 180,000 steps per month. One Chinese yuan (14 cents) is deducted from an employee’s salary for every 100 steps missed. A staffer in human resources reportedly lost $14 for missing her target by 10,000 steps. Several major insurance companies also request step counts from their customers, giving away discounts to frequent exercisers.
In response, many in China are simply cheating the system. WeChat’s fitness tracker uses a mobile phone’s internal sensors to estimate the number of steps a person walks. Swinging the device in a cradle, therefore, tricks the phone’s accelerometer into thinking the user is walking. Some Chinese restaurants have added the bizarre contraptions to their establishments in a bid to keep patrons drinking and eating.
4 Study the Great Nation App
China’s Publicity Department has developed an app that teaches citizens about their country. The app, dubbed “Study the Great Nation,” waxes lyrical about the achievements of President Jinping and the Party. But the app is not just a tool for propaganda. It also grants the CCP “super-user privileges,” meaning the CCP can potentially track a phone user’s daily activities.
Study the Great Nation focuses heavily on news about President Xi Jinping, even going so far as to promote a television series called “Xi Time.” The app also takes citizens on a tour of China’s history, culture, and socialist underpinnings. Users are then expected to complete a series of tests to ensure they have truly absorbed the Party’s wisdoms. Test results are posted on leaderboards to stir up competition between members of the public.
The CCP has promoted the app far and wide. School children are routinely shamed for having low test scores. Employers force workers to provide proof of their test scores. And journalists use the app to take a course on President Jinping. Only then will they receive their press cards.
With over 100 million users, Study the Great Nation has proven a runaway success. Admittedly, much of the app’s popularity was due to the government’s attempts to coerce citizens into using it. The first reviews were largely unfavorable, averaging just 2.7 stars on the Apple app store. “Everybody is installing this app voluntarily,” stated one rather sarcastic user. “Nobody is forcing us.” The reviews were soon deleted.
3 Catching Wanted Criminals with Smart Glasses
Police forces across China are quickly adapting to the technological revolution, harnessing the power of facial recognition techniques to apprehend criminals. In 2015, tech company LLVision released its own version of Google Glass. Forces across China use the technology, called GLXSS, to quickly pick out criminals from a crowd. The tech showed promise after it was tested on busy railway platforms in Zhengzhou. During the Lunar New Year in 2018, the railway police used the smart glasses to detain human traffickers, hit-and-run suspects, and people traveling with fake IDs.
Meanwhile, cops in the Chinese province of Sichuan wear the tech to monitor traffic across a number of highway checkpoints. LLVision’s smart glasses are used to capture a passing vehicle’s license plate. A simple database check provides information about the vehicle and its registered owner. The occupants of the car are then scanned against the facial recognition database to identify any potential fugitives.
GLXSS uses an 8-megapixel camera to capture HD footage. The data is then beamed to a tablet, which compares the imagery to a database of wanted criminals. Responding to concerns over potential human rights violations, LLVision boss Wu Fei said the CCP was using the technology for “noble” purposes. “We trust the government,” Fei added.
2 Taser-Wielding Police Robots
China has quickly become a world leader in military and police robotics, exporting many of its technologies to emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa. The techno-nationalist country has built up an impressive array of unmanned drones, including attack helicopters, stealth jets, mini submarines, tank destroyers, and gun-mounted rovers. Special coronavirus patrol bots measure body temperatures and instruct citizens to wear masks. And police robots wander around China’s city centers, hospitals, airports, and construction sites.
In 2016, the National Defense University unveiled AnBot – a self-directed security and police patrol robot. Reminiscent of Doctor Who’s genocidal Daleks, the 78kg robot is designed to “patrol autonomously and protect against violence or unrest.” To that end, it comes with a host of surveillance cameras and an extendable electroshock arm. AnBot reacts to cries for help, rolling towards danger at speeds of 11 miles per hour. It currently patrols the terminals of Shenzhen Airport.
A similar robot made its debut at a railway station in Henan province. The E-Patrol Robot Sheriff looks out for unlawful activity and cross references commuters with China’s criminal databases. It can also detect abnormal changes in humidity and temperature. On its very first day, the bot discovered a fire. “Thankfully, the robot’s air monitoring and humidity monitoring functions helped us, if not we’d have a huge mess on our hands,” explained one on-duty cop.
1 Execution Vans that Harvest Organs
The CCP has long maintained that capital punishment is necessary for maintaining social order. For decades, the Chinese government has used firing squads to execute convicted criminals. But, since 2010, the authorities have started to phase out the practice in favor of lethal injection. However, many rural municipalities balk at the cost of transporting prisoners to specialized execution centers. This problem has led to the rise of an unorthodox solution: mobile execution vans and buses.
In small towns and villages, criminals who are sentenced to death are cuffed to stretchers and loaded into the back of specialized execution vehicles. A cocktail of drugs is then administered, causing the crook to lose consciousness and go into cardiac arrest. A technician must carry out the death in the presence of a third-party witness, and a video feed of the event ensures the executioner complies with the state’s rules. The deceased’s organs are then harvested and packed into ice boxes.
With thousands of citizens facing the death penalty each year, human rights groups have accused the government of using execution vans for financial gain. A number of low-level crimes are still punishable by death, including tax fraud and general corruption. Unsurprisingly, the organ trade has now ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry.
In 2019, a criminal tribunal in London found China guilty of harvesting organs from political prisoners. The CCP allegedly launched a persecution campaign against the Falun Gong, a meditative and spiritual group. Chinese surgeons are said to have extracted eyes, hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, and skin tissue from detainees. Some of the victims were still alive during the procedures.