China collects vast swathes of information from around the world, by fair or foul means, as part of its national intelligence apparatus. Some of this spying is done by individuals and businesses, but a great deal of it is sanctioned by the Chinese government.
Indeed, on 3 November 2021, the Pentagon's 21st edition of its China Military Power Report contained a whole section on Chinese espionage. Illustrating the sheer volume of Chinese efforts to steal sensitive data or items, in 2020 the FBI opened a China-related counterintelligence case every ten hours on average. Furthermore, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that, in 2020, the FBI had nearly 5,000 active counterintelligence cases on its books, of which nearly half related to China. Stunningly, economic espionage cases linked to China have increased by 1,300% in the past decade. The Pentagon also disclosed, "The People's Republic of China's [PRC] efforts to acquire sensitive, dual-use or military-grade equipment included radiation-hardened integrated circuits, monolithic microwave integrated circuits, accelerometers, gyroscopes, naval and marine technologies, syntactic foam trade secrets, space communications, military communication jamming equipment, dynamic random access memory, aviation technologies and anti-submarine warfare."
Elsa Kania, an adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security's Technology and National Security Program, told Shephard Media that China's widespread deployment of facial recognition was enabling powerful, pervasive surveillance that could enhance its counterespionage capabilities.
Kania said, "Beijing's prioritization of these applications of AI technologies reflects an intense concern with counterespionage, which has also been the focus of a range of campaigns and propaganda." Further, Kania explained that China's employment of a range of biometrics could be creating a highly contested environment for anyone seeking to operate without detection or identification.
China collects the fingerprints of all foreigners entering China as part of a larger effort by Beijing to strengthen state control over the population and to expand anti-spy campaigns. Even at some Chinese airports, one only need stand in front of an information board for an integrated camera to recognize who you are and then direct you to your gate number for your flight. This is Orwellian China.
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