News | International
19 Nov 2019 18:30
NZCity News
NZCity CalculatorReturn to NZCity

  • Start Page
  • Personalise
  • Sport
  • Weather
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Jobs
  • Horoscopes
  • Lotto Results
  • Photo Gallery
  • Site Gallery
  • TVNow
  • Dating
  • SearchNZ
  • NZSearch
  • Crime.co.nz
  • RugbyLeague
  • Make Home
  • About NZCity
  • Contact NZCity
  • Your Privacy
  • Advertising
  • Login
  • Join for Free

  •   Home > News > International

    China trumpets tech power at 6th World Internet Conference, signalling a 'digital arms race'

    China is racing to surpass the West's historical dominance of the tech sector, and this year's World Internet Conference shows just how much Beijing has caught up.


    At the turn of the millennium, former US president Bill Clinton declared that China's effort to censor the internet was akin to "nailing jello to the wall".

    "China has been trying to crack down on the internet — good luck!" Mr Clinton said to cackles and laughter while celebrating the potential ofwhat was then a nascent internet.

    But in the 19 years since that speech, the internet hasn't exactly developed in the ways Mr Clinton envisioned: its potential to influence political emancipation has been demonstrably limited, while Beijing has managed to pull off one of the largest internet censorship regimes on the planet.

    This week, at an annual showcase run by the Cyberspace Administration of China — the body responsible for Beijing's censorship apparatus — various elements of China's booming digital power were on show.

    At this year's World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, a raft of Chinese tech giants like Huawei, Alibaba and Tencent were in attendance, while 15 "cutting edge scientific and technological achievements" — spanning research in artificial intelligence, cloud computing and 5G technology — were highlighted by a team of 300 local and foreign experts.

    However, a few developments of note came to light: one being the presentation of a new computer processor that could support China's ambitious 2020 Social Credit System.

    Another was Beijing's increasing success at exporting its censored vision of the internet around the world.

    "New technologies, new applications and new forms of business such as artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things are just unfolding," Chinese President Xi Jinping told conference delegates.

    "Countries should follow the trend of the times, shoulder the responsibility for development, meet the challenges and risks, jointly promote global governance in cyberspace and strive to build a community of shared future in cyberspace."

    China has made the world's fastest computer processor

    At the conference, Huawei — whose 5G network is banned in Australia — presented the world's fastest computer processor, the Kunpeng 920.

    The company claims that testing proves it is 25 per cent faster than its competitors, and that its energy use is 30 per cent more efficient.

    This could allow for more computational power in a world where artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms necessitate faster processes of larger amounts of data.

    For example, processors like Huawei's might be used in an algorithm designed to identify a face within a moving crowd of tens of thousands of people within a matter of seconds.

    Developments such as these could no doubt help Beijing realise its planned nationwide social credit system next year, which will see the Government attempt to digitally score 1.4 billion citizens in real-time, based on a variety of metrics related to social behaviour and fidelity to China's political regime.

    Central to the system are some 200 million CCTV cameras nationwide which feed data into a surveillance network supported by artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms.

    Critics of the policy call the system a "digital dictatorship", while some Australian universities have conducted reviews into links with Chinese companies who have been accused of developing technology used to carry out mass human rights abuses in the predominantly-Muslim region of Xinjiang.

    However, Huang Kunming, the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda head, told the conference that global concern about China's digital path signified a "Cold War mentality".

    "The Cold War thinking and zero-sum game, this has stopped and hindered exchanges in cyberspace," he said.

    "By using national security as an excuse, some countries have attacked some countries and enterprises. This has increased the uncertainty, opposition and negativity in cyberspace."

    Beijing's export of 'cyber sovereignty' on the rise

    In recent years, Beijing offered massive amounts of funds to assist infrastructure around the globe under a policy known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

    That now encompasses aid for digital projects, which could see iterations of a Chinese-style internet replicated in other countries.

    Forsignatories to China's digital aid, this could lead foreign governments to employ "Chinese-style censorship of public opinion", a telecommunications executive told the Nikkei Asian Review on the sidelines of the conference.

    This new paradigm is officially referred to as "cyber sovereignty", where the state assumes control of what is shown on a country's internet and keeps citizens partially cut off from a global internet.

    This has led to a starkly different world for younger generations of Chinese internet users, where knowledge of Facebook, Google — and even the Tiananmen Square massacre's tank man image — is scant,while the ABC website is also banned in China.

    Countries looking to crackdown on dissent and the spread of information — like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Laos, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — have already signed up to China's "digital silk road".

    This year, countries such as Pakistan, Portugal and Rwanda are recent additions to the BRI's digital opportunities.

    Digital surveillance analyst Michael Richardson told the ABC that opting for Chinese digital infrastructure wasn't a "one size fits all situation", as countries may pick and choose what aspects of China's internet system they want to replicate.

    "Some countries might be very keen for Chinese-style surveillance cameras, facial recognition and image processing tools … but they might not have any interest in social media monitoring," he said.

    "Any country with a relatively restless population or with particular security concerns and a growing shift towards authoritarianism would be interested.

    Looking at Beijing's efforts on the whole, Dr Richardson said this was evidence of the globe being in "a digital arms race of some intensity".

    "China has a huge amount of money and it has the weight of the state to put behind projects," he said.

    In 2018, $513 billion was tipped into China's state-owned enterprises, while investment in the telecommunication sector rose by 39.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2019.

    At the conference, it was revealed that China's digital economy is worth 3.13 trillion yuan ($644 billion), though it still falls far behind the value of that of America's, which was valued at $US1.4 trillion ($2.04 trillion) in 2017, according to data released in April.

    Dr Richardson said Beijing's new digital power could be seen in its "huge" investment in algorithmic and computing technologies.

    "In certain ways, we're a long way behind on things like automation and artificial intelligence, but in other ways, we're doing just fine," he said

    He added that Australia's relative lack of a "cohesive" technology and automation strategy was worrying.

    But while it remains to be seen whether China can socially engineer its populace through technology, or export its vision of the digital future, what is certain is that former president Clinton's vision of a truly global, open internet isn't as strong as it once was.

    "The internet [of most] people's imagination was always very small and in some ways never really existed on a global scale," Dr Richardson said, in reference to the internet of the 1990s.

    "This early model of the internet was very ad hoc and emerged out of a particular cultural setting driven by what we might call cyber utopians, who [saw it] free of state intervention.

    "Sovereign internets were perhaps one inevitable response to a globalised, very general and open internet."

    The World Internet Conference and the Cyberspace Administration of China have been contacted for comment.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


     Other International News
     19 Nov: South Dakota launches anti-drug campaign declaring 'Meth. We're On It'
     19 Nov: Donald Trump considers testifying to US Congress over Ukraine dealings
     19 Nov: Hong Kong protesters fear lives in danger as police patience runs thin
     19 Nov: Greenhouse gas nitrous oxide emissions have 'increased substantially' in the past decade, study finds
     19 Nov: Hong Kong mask ban ruled 'unconstitutional' as siege of Polytechnic University continues
     18 Nov: Punched, stalked and harassed women abandon UK politics over safety fears
     18 Nov: Hong Kong protesters using catapults, archery bows and Molotov cocktails in battle for 'democracy and freedom'
     Top Stories

    RUGBY RUGBY
    A wait and see game for Kiwi Mixed Martial Artist Dan Hooker More...


    BUSINESS BUSINESS
    Significant power price hikes ... could be in the wind for some in Otago More...



     Today's News

    Entertainment:
    James Blunt says he was “lucky to know” the late Carrie Fisher 18:22

    Law and Order:
    A jury has today been reminded what constitutes 'murderous intent'? in the trial of the man accused of murdering Grace Millane 18:07

    Entertainment:
    Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd are “thrilled” to be expecting a child together 17:52

    Cricket:
    Nothing but respect for the Black Caps bowling attack from a potential England debutant 17:37

    General:
    Kiwi skier Piera Hudson is eyeing an opportunity to chase valuable ranking points as she embarks on her northern hemisphere season 17:27

    Entertainment:
    Kelly Osbourne says appearing on ‘The Masked Singer’ helped her “find” herself again following two years out of the spotlight 17:22

    Entertainment:
    Bindi Irwin wants to “make a difference” by continuing her father Steve Irwin’s conservation work 16:52

    Entertainment:
    Bella Hadid used to "cry every single morning" as a result of her health battle 16:22

    Cricket:
    A scare for England allrounder Ben Stokes after being struck in the nets by a teammate 16:17

    Entertainment:
    Camila Cabello is “collaborating” with Shawn Mendes “on life” 15:52


     News Search






    Power Search


    © 2019 New Zealand City Ltd