• Informatization of city management — transportation, public safety,
healthcare, environmental protection…
• Utlizing technologies: IoT, 5G, AI, Big Data, Cloud computing.
• Alibaba’s City Brain project (Hangzhou) — >20 cities in China plus Kuala
Lumpur, Macau, etc. by 2019.
• Huawei — leveraging 5G and communications technologies for land and air
• SkyNet project: surveillance camera network with facial recognition and AI.
• Leading vendors: Hikvision, SenseTime, Dahua, Huawei, ZTE, etc.
• BBC reporter John Sudworth (Guiyang, Guizhou; 2017) “caught in 7 minutes”:
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear?”
• Massive deployment in Xinjiang.
• State Council document: “Guidelines of Social Credit System Construction (2014-2020)” (2014):
• The system aims to standardize assessment for businesses, organizations and individuals,
measuring financial, social and political worthiness.
• Rather than a single score to limit social activities of movements of individuals, it still focuses
more on business or marketplace behaviors.
• The system is still fragmented, not fully digitized and decisions largely made by humans rather
• However, the system is still a flexible tool for rapid and strict enforcement when needed.
• Do not underestimate the acceptance by Chinese public — for social harmony, crime
prevention, in a “low trust” society.
• A perfect opportunity to test the technology and social credit in order to trace and restrict
movements of people, record their vaccination and infection records, and testing their level of
• Real-name registration for apps rolled out by different levels of governments and municipalities,
often with different quarantine policies.
• Use of health code apps to control movements for political purpose by inserting a “red” code:
• A human rights lawyer restricted from traveling to Beijing (Nov, 2021).
• In the Henan banking crisis (2021), affected customers were placed under restriction to
prevent them from joining protests.
• These apps are dismantled in 2023, but….
• Regulations since mid-1990s affirms the state’s sole and absolute right to
build, manage and control the Internet.
• Internet security falls under the control of the Ministry of Public Security.
• 2014: China’s Internet policies were centralized and controlled by the State
Internet Information Office (SIIO) and later upgraded to become the Central
Cyberspace Affairs Commission, chaired by Xi Jinping himself.
• By 2018, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) was formed as the
top cyber regulator in China.
Rule by Law
• Cybersecurity Law (CSL) of 2017, amended/clarified in 2021.
• Amalgamatiion of previous Internet censorship laws, unifying control.
• Data sovereignty requirements, and state security agencies can seize data.
• “Critical information infrastructure” subject to national security review over data security,
procurement and cross-border data flows, etc.
• Should not “incite subversion of national sovereignty, overturn the socialist system, incite
separatism, break national unity, advocate terrorism or extremism, advocate ethnic hatred
and discrimination, disseminate violent, obscene, or sexual information, create or
disseminate false information to disrupt economic or social order.”
• Other recent major laws: Data Security Law (DSL), Personal Information Protection Law
Digital Silk Road
• “Masterplan by Beijing to deploy its techno-authoritarian model” to Belt-and-Road countries
• Dual-use technologies: military and industrial/civilian usages
• Next-generation national firewall — active surveillance and data analytics
• Thailand’s failed attempt in 2015; Cambodia, 2020.
• State financing for many Afircan and Asian countries to procure equipments and projects
from Huawei, ZTE etc.
• WSJ (2019): Uganda and Zambia governments intercepted encrypted communications
and social media messages and used cell location data to track political opponents.
China’s Global Data Harvest
• 5G and infrastructure: Huawei, ZTE, etc.
• US's Clean Network Initiative (2020) and sanctions by various western countries.
• Surveillance cameras: Hikvision, etc.
• Strong pushback in the UK, Australia, etc.
• Consumer products and services
• Mobile phones by Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.
• AliPay, WeChatPay
• Didi Chuxing
• Most of all — TikTok
• Also the balloons?
Finally, Technology Standards and Norms
• Growing global influence
• Unlimited cooperation between China and Russia
• Huawei as the proxy agent to advance China’s proposed standards: “New IP”
and “IPv6+”: advancing the idea of a strong regulatory binding between an IP
address and a user.
• Attempts to change the global tech standard decision processes:
• From IETF, IEEE, IAB, IRTF, W3C etc to ITU
• 2022 Election of ITU’s Secretary General: USA vs Russia
The Way Forward
• China is actively exporting its Internet governance model.
• China, working with Russia and other authoritarian regimes, will further fragment the
• Digital sovereignty being advanced by many governments, including democracies
• Multistakeholder model of Internet governance under continuous and escalating
• Challenges and opportunities in global data trade
• Other challenges from new technologies, including AI, blockchain, digital currencies,
quantum computing, etc.