Increasing Government Control and Repression: China, Russia Spreading Surveillance Methods Around the World. King of the East and Gog. Birds of a feather flock together. Who is doing ‘what’ and ‘where.’
Sintia Radu U.S.News & World Report•September 20, 2019
For years the number of countries using technology to monitor and track their citizens has been growing. China and Russia have been the most active in applying the technologies; Beijing increasingly uses surveillance methods within its own country, Moscow engages in extensive hacking of other countries’ systems and both nations aggressively sell surveillance technology and training to foreign governments.
Now newly released research shows that the two countries’ approaches to spreading surveillance technologies are dissimilar and employ different resources and philosophies.
Beijing’s and Moscow’s information control technologies have a global reach, according to a report by Valentin Weber, research affiliate at the Centre for Technology and Global Affairs at the University of Oxford. The impact can be seen in small island nations in the Caribbean, as well as in India with its population of 1.3 billion.
“While journalists from the Bahamas, Lesotho, and Peru participate in propaganda trainings in Beijing, Chinese surveillance gear is used in a military command in the East of Brazil, and in Jordan‘s House of Parliament,” Weber writes in his research. “Russian surveillance equipment, for its part, is deployed in bordering countries like Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine as well as farther abroad in states like Algeria, Cuba, Mexico, and Palestine.”
The Chinese and the Russian surveillance models, while similar in scope, differ by method, says Weber, who also is the information controls fellow at the Open Technology Fund in Washington, D.C. China uses more advanced techniques while Russia relies on older strategies, Weber found.
In 1995 the Russian government began laying the legal framework for extensive surveillance that includes intercepting calls and monitoring the internet, social media and Wi-Fi, according to Weber. Those laws also regulate blogging and encryption and require data storage to be based in Russia.
The Russian government has paid less attention to censorship than China, failing to establish domestic media substitutes to foreign outlets, according to Weber. Moscow still allows foreign apps, social media platforms and search engines. And while Russian authorities conduct online filtering, it is less pervasive than in China, Weber found.
“Russians don’t have as many options for technological surveillance so they rely mostly on traditional methods of controlling their population through intimidation or passing laws to intimidate people or by extensive (harassing) of journalists,” Weber said in an interview.
China, by contrast, is leveraging its technological expansion around the world by building and adapting tech tools for surveilling its own population and exporting those models abroad. Citizens, including children, are monitored through apps, facial recognition cameras and other technologies. Beijing also engages in dispelling information critical of the regime and or tied to controversial subjects; separate research in 2016 found the government actively posts on social media to steer public attention.
Both countries export their information control models abroad through the selling of technology and training programs. The type of regime and the amount of interconnectedness between countries are the primary determinants in where Beijing and Moscow spread their information controls around the world, Weber says. For example:
Countries under the Russian technosphere include Comoros, Lithuania, the Maldives, Nepal, Palestine, Yemen and Nicaragua.
Overlapping Chinese and Russian influence are taking place in Cuba, Mexico, India, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Thailand, Turkey, Tajikistan, Singapore, the United States, Moldova and Turkmenistan.
Earlier this week, China and Russia agreed to push for more cooperation in scientific and technological innovation and expand trade ties. Yet Weber says the more the two countries’ global influence grows, the less they’ll cooperate with each other.
“In Central Asia, China has a stronger footprint especially in the selling of surveillance,” he said in an interview. “Economically Russia will become uncomfortable with that and I think that’s when they will start colliding.”
Categories: Government Repression Control